Why does my baby want to Suck all the Time?
I was full of great intentions as I set out to nurse my first baby—nearly 50 years ago! My mother was by my side to encourage me in the way she thought best—to feed my baby on a four-hourly schedule. But sadly, this way brought me heartache and frustration. Every time my baby woke before the four hours were up, I paced the floor in agony waiting to feed him. My heart ached while my baby cried. I was a desperate mother. And I ran out of milk! With such a little amount of sucking, there was no way to keep up a good milk supply. By the time my baby was three months, I was well on the way to weaning, plus feeding him as many solids as I could to fill him up. I felt a failure!
I still did not understand what was happening and thought I just didn’t have enough milk supply to feed a baby. Our next babies were twins and I nursed them for eight months. I could easily have nursed them longer, but weaned because we had to travel to a family wedding. It is sad to think about it now. I confess with great grief in my heart, that although I loved my precious babies with all my heart, I realize now that because of my ignorance, they were not mothered sufficiently. They expressed this by self mothering. The two boys sucked their thumbs and my precious little girl sucked her bottom lip. They did this because they did not get their sucking satisfaction from me, their mother. As they grew into childhood, they banged their heads on their pillows or against the bed head to go to sleep.
All babies are born with a great sucking need. If this need is not met, it will show itself in some way in the child, if not when they are little, when they are older. Many mothers satisfy this need by using a pacifier. But God intended the mother to meet this need. A pacifier is a mother substitute.
God designed a mother to meet the total needs of her baby through the breast. This cannot be done through scheduled feeding. My mother nursed me for nearly a year on schedule (I was one of the few babies that kept nursing that long without my mother running out of milk) but because she did not satisfy my sucking need, I sucked my thumb. In fact, it was such a need in my life that I didn’t stop sucking my thumb until I was a teenager! What a terrible admission!
It was not until my fourth baby that I was forced to make a change in my way of mothering. This baby was born screaming and screamed all night and every night. Some babies are born with a greater need for comfort, assurance, and sucking than others. He was one of them. He would not have survived physically or emotionally on continued scheduling. I desperately began to research and realized that it was the sucking stimulation of the baby on the breast that produced the milk supply and that if I let him nurse as much as he wanted, I would have plenty of milk
But that was only part of the solution. His needs were greater than physical! I found to my delight, that as I nursed him freely and as much as he needed me, he became peaceful and contented. I even took him to bed with me (which I had been told was taboo, and that I would either roll on him or he would be totally spoilt!). Taking him to bed with me and letting him nurse as he wanted in the night was the answer to all my problems! This change in mothering style set me free! Instead of being frustrated, mothering became a breeze. Whenever my baby was fretful, I didn’t worry about what to do. I put him to the breast. I enjoyed motherhood with new delight.
But, now I was in a dilemma! I was enjoying life, but the old wives’ tales haunted me. I certainly wanted to do it God’s way. I cried out to God for direction. He was faithful and revealed His truth to me through Isaiah 66:10-13. In this passage God likens Jerusalem to a nursing mother. As we read the passage we see God's plan for nursing mothers. We do not even see the word "food" mentioned. Instead. it talks about satisfying, consoling, delighting, and comforting. The revelation hit me. Nursing is not an alternative method to bottle feeding. It is total mothering! It is ministering to the total needs of the baby, whether it is for hunger or emotional security.
This “freeing” way of mothering blesses mother and baby. Not only does the mother meet the needs of her baby through sucking, but God provides natural contraception. It takes a lot more sucking than scheduled feeding provides to hold back ovulation.
We are in a time of restoration. God is restoring us back to His ways for family. Many families have been, and are continuing to be convicted of their selfishness to stop the children God wants them to have. They are returning to God’s heart and His desire to fill this earth with the godly seed. However, in coming back to God’s way, we cannot come back in only one area. We must come back in all areas of understanding. When we get the revelation of trusting God for our family size and yielding our fertility to Him, we need to do it His way. If we continue to schedule the feeding of babies, menstruation will return early and therefore the possibility to conceive. It can be overwhelming for a mother to conceive a baby every year.
I do not believe that this God’s ultimate plan. He has provided natural contraception for mothers through the continual sucking of the baby. Studies prove that mothers who nurse this way will have their babies about every two years. Some may commence menstruation at six months, but others not for two and a half years. The average is 14.6 months. The spacing is even longer in more primitive societies who freely nurse their babies day and night.
I will concede that it takes time to learn to totally mother. Many first-time mothers are not ready for this because they have been conditioned to selfishness and to always meet their own needs first. I was like this when I first started out, but gently God taught me and with each baby I learned to give more freely to my baby and forget my own needs.
My fourth baby led me into this beautiful way of mothering. I gave more with my fifth baby who weaned at three and three-quarter years. I gave even more freely with my sixth baby who weaned at four years. Nursing this way did not hinder me from ministering to the rest of my family. It enabled me to mother them more fully. too. I was still able to minister to the needs of many people as a pastor’s wife, open our home in continuous hospitality, and commence the ministry of Above Rubies which touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of women in over 100 countries of the world.
My last three babies had no need of self mothering. They did not suck their thumbs, fingers, or use pacifiers. They did not need cuddly blankets or any mother substitute. They were totally satisfied at the breast. I know that my fourth baby, who was my learning baby into this new way of life, was saved from much heartache. I know he would have been a very difficult child to handle if I had not learned to meet his deep emotional needs in those early years of nursing. And now he delights in his wife mothering his own children this way.
Many may still rebel at giving themselves so freely. “What about time for me and my own interests?” they cry. God’s principle of “losing oneself” applies in every area of life, including motherhood. Jesus said, “He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep pit unto life eternal.” (John 8:25) You never lose by losing your own life for someone else’s. You will only lose by keeping it to yourself. Many mothers think that it is their right to have a night’s sleep and that they should not have to feed their little babies at night. But, what is a little sacrifice when you are doing the most important task in the nation? Sacrifice can be expected when you are involved in a career that has such far reaching influence. You are nurturing a child who is eternal and will live forever.
May God lead you into His perfect will and into the liberating joy of nurturing your baby the way God has wondrously designed for you.