Even if a baby is unable to receive nutritional benefits from breast-feeding (for example, because of limited milk production in the mother, or a physiological condition such as cleft palate), “non nutritive sucking” improves physiological stability in babies.1 The sucking reflex also provides emotional benefits, enabling the baby or child to calm themselves and focus attention. Non-nutritive sucking can be an important first step in the baby’s development of self-regulation and ability to control emotion.2

References1. Pinelli J, Symington A. Non-nutritive sucking for promoting physiologic stability and nutrition in preterm infants. The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2005.

2. Casamassimo P (ed). Bright Futures in Practice: Oral Health. Arlington, VA: National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, 1996. http://www.brightfutures.org/oralhealth/pdf/index.html. Accessed 12 Nov 2009