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The Comfort Habit

Recently I had a discussion with a health visitor about my 10 month old son’s diet and sleep.

I explained that he still regularly wakes up and that I breastfeed on demand in the day and night. “He doesn’t need milk in the night. He’s just waking for milk, out of habit”, she said.

I didn’t agree, I thought he was waking up and wanting comfort.

“Well yes, it’s the same thing’.

Again I have to disagree.

In my mind; and due to how we use the word, habit is seen as a weakness, a negative. I can’t think of any positive habits. A ‘drink habit’, a ‘drug habit’, a ‘smoking habit’ to name but a few. I don’t think you can label a 10 month old with a ‘milk habit’!

Comfort is completely different. To wake up and seek comfort seems to me the most natural and normal thing in the world. Sometimes when I wake in the night I snuggle into my husband for a cuddle, a soothing embrace which then helps me to drift back into a peaceful sleep. Why should my infant boy not want the same? It’s just that his comes in the form of a breast feed.

A close, comforting, bonding experience.

I don’t understand why we are made to feel by some health professionals, as well as much of society, that this is somehow wrong. A bad habit that we need to break. As breaking is what it would be…breaking a bond, breaking a special connection, one he will never have again. A comfort that provides him such stability, continuity and calm.

I wonder why it seems that we are often advised or told what our baby needs. When I was a first time mum this made me really doubt myself and worry endlessly that I was creating a rod for my own back and was setting myself and my baby up for a lifetime of challenging nights. As it turned out this thankfully was not the case, and this gave me renewed confidence when my son came along to go with my instincts. I once did a course and was taught that a parent is the expert on their baby, and the baby is the teacher. They let the parent know what they need and the parent, as the expert, responds to their baby’s needs.

I am thankful for this as I often think of it now. What is so wrong with providing a baby, toddler, child or human for that matter, comfort when they need it? I will continue to feed him during the night while he still wants me to, and one day I will look back on these days and wonder how they went by so quickly and perhaps miss feeling so needed.

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