Non-nutritive sucking

Breastfeeding is a misleading term because babies do more than just feed at the breast.  I noticed in the first few days of his life outside the womb that Ewan would nurse for a long time and nurse himself to sleep.  Quickly I noticed that he was actually eating for only part of that time spent at the breast.

People cautioned me to avoid becoming a "human pacifier".

I read in the Breastfeeding Made Simple that it is ridiculous to say such a thing.  Pacifiers were invented to replace breasts.  The La Leche League website calls this non-nutritive sucking, and says that it is an important part of breastfeeding.

Apparently we had to invent two devices to replace the breast when breastfeeding fell out of fashion: the bottle and the pacifier.  Breasts perform both functions.  (It's very important not to give your baby a bottle or a pacifier for the first 4 to 6 weeks.  For a great discussion on what to do during this time follow this link to the La Leche League website.  Also, check out this discussion on pacifier usage.)

At the beginning, it was hard for me to notice the difference between eating and just sucking because he was just eating colostrum and it was difficult to hear him swallowing.  Then, when my milk came in, it was easier to hear him swallow.  Now, after three months, I can feel my milk let down, hear him gulping, then hear him swallowing a little, then he lightly sucks and I'm not sure if anything is really coming out or not.

A lactation consultant at the hospital taught me how to tell if Ewan was swallowing or not.  If you listen to your baby nursing you will be able to hear a little click (sort-of) and a release of air through his or her nose.  If you want to know what I mean, try it yourself.  Glup some water out of a glass and listen to yourself.  After you swallow, you let air out of your nose.  Listen for your baby to do that and you can tell he or she is swallowing.  It's a good way to reassure yourself that your baby is getting milk though you can't feel it.

I can feel my milk let down now, but I couldn't in the early weeks.  The let down response is very strange.  Apparently not everyone feels it, and it may feel different to different people.  For me it feels like a tightness high up in my breast--like a muscle contracting--and it usually happens in both at the same time even though he's only nursing on one.  I usually leak from the breast he isn't nursing from, which is annoying.