What is Nipple Confusion?

What is Nipple Confusion?

If you are going to have a baby or just had a baby, you are probably getting bombarded with advice. Advice about sleep, tummy time, different gear, pacifiers, and how to feed your baby--just to name a few. You may have even heard the phrase “nipple confusion.” What does that even mean and how can I keep my baby from being confused about nipples?

Nipple confusion happens when the baby is introduced to a bottle or pacifier which may then make them struggle to go back to breastfeeding.  However, there are many pediatricians (about half) who do not think nipple confusion is a thing. They believe that a breastfeeding baby will be attracted to bottles and pacifiers and that bottles and pacifiers are not the cause of breastfeeding troubles.

In other words, the learning process of breastfeeding can be very difficult just by itself, regardless of whether baby uses a bottle or pacifier at all. Some even say that using a bottle can help ease breastfeeding struggles. Medical professionals have done studies that support both the nipple confusion argument and the nonexistence of nipple confusion. 

If nipple confusion does exist, there are two types: 

  1. When a new baby has a difficult time latching onto the breast after using a bottle or binky. Babies use a different technique to breastfeed than they do to feed from a bottle, so they may struggle to go from one to another.
  2. When a baby starts to prefer the bottle over the breast. This can happen for a number of different reasons, but a main reason is because it is easier to drink quickly from a bottle than the breast.

You can know that your baby is nipple confused if:

  • Baby is struggling to latch
  • Baby is not drinking enough/not emptying your breast during feeds
  • Your breasts are engorged from your baby not emptying them
  • Baby is being fussy during feeds
  • You are producing less milk

How to avoid nipple confusion:

  • Wait until your baby is four weeks old to use a bottle or binky.
  • If your baby needs supplemental feedings, use a spoon or syringe.
  • Use the slowest flow nipple on your bottles.
  • Use bottles like Comotomo that mimic the flow and feel of the breast.
  • Try to keep breastfeeding a calm time for you and baby.

Baby bottle feeding

It is hard to know what to do when there are many opinions on the subject (some even saying nipple confusion doesn’t exist). It is especially hard when those opinions are strongly felt. That can be the hardest part of all of this. With a lot of things in life, people will give you advice and you get a take it or leave it vibe from them. For whatever reason, when it comes to babies, specifically how to feed your baby, people get all up in arms if you choose to feed your baby a certain way. 

With both of my babies, I breastfed and fed them with a bottle from the time they were only a few days old. I’ve never made a lot of milk, and so I needed to supplement with something. They were never confused between the two and it made my life easier. I didn’t have to wake up for every feed, I could feed them during car rides or other times that would make breastfeeding almost impossible, anyone could feed them, and I still was able to have a special nursing connection with them. 

Mother breastfeeding

Hopefully you already know this, but do what is best for you. If nursing your baby becomes a point of complete stress and anxiety, it’s okay to bottle feed them. Your first few weeks and months can be stressful enough. Try to make it as precious and enjoyable as possible by not forcing yourself to do something that isn’t working for either of you.

You could pump if you really want them to have breastmilk, or using formula is a wonderful option too. Formula is not evil. I was formula fed and I think I turned out pretty well. There are many reasons for feeding your baby in different ways. Don’t let the term nipple confusion scare you into doing one thing or another. You and your baby will figure it out as you go along. Just be patient. 

For more breastfeeding info go to babycubby.com.


Abby Love

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