Nipple confusion can be a frustrating part of breastfeeding for new moms nursing their little ones. Moms that want to still have the bonding time, but don’t have always the ability to be there for every feeding, and then they can sometimes find it difficult for their baby to want to latch after introducing bottles. Experts usually say that it's best to wait several weeks before offering bottles to a breastfed baby, as breastfeeding is a learned behavior. Babies need a little time to master each skill, and it is better if they learn one thing at a time.

Why am I having trouble?

Difficulty breastfeeding can be due to an infant being born before the estimated due date, a difficult or complicated birth, an infant or mother recovering from illness, a structural abnormality of the baby’s face or mouth (i.e cleft pallet), or a structural abnormality of the breast or nipple (i.e inverted nipples). Breast pumping would be the best option at this point so your newborn can receive the proper nutrition to develop successfully. It should be noted that when poorly feeding newborns are offered a bottle, then they may, in return, reject the breast. This isn’t considered nipple confusion, but just a sign that the infant needs help to breastfeed properly.

What is nipple confusion?

Nipple confusion is when a healthy infant has had too many bottles before breastfeeding has been completely established as their natural feeding pattern. The infant might not know how to properly latch or take to a nipple and prefer to have a bottle instead. Sometimes nipple confusion occurs in older babies who were previously nursing and switched to bottle feeding because mom was returning to work or school. Mom’s milk supply can become low due to lack of stimulation brought on by separation. With low milk supply from mom, babies might favor bottles because of a better flow from the bottle. This can be reversed by reestablishing a better milk supply with mom with nursing more often when home with baby and cutting back on bottles.

Introducing a bottle correctly

The opposite side of baby only taking the bottle is a baby only taking the nipple! Breastfed babies love to breastfeed. Sneaking in bottles is the best option to introduce bottle feeding to babies who are little fussier. Reassure your baby often to encourage a positive experience with bottle feeding. Ironically, some babies will take to the bottle better from other people such as dad or the babysitter. This can be great way to help establish the behavior and gives mom a little break as well. Remember, this isn’t a race and won’t happen overnight. Introducing baby to the bottle will take some time and patience!

Dealing with nipple confusionResources for moms

There are plenty of resources for moms who are finding it difficult to establish a feeding pattern with their little one. Moms can seek help from La Leche League for advice on all things breastfeeding. This group of breastfeeding moms and Lactation Consultants is a great resource for moms who have questions about anything to do with raising their infant. Some helpful pointers are still to increase skin-to-skin contact to calm baby, use a nipple shield to help coax infants back to the breast, use a feeding tube device to help increase milk flow allowing supplementation at breast, and protect breast milk supply by increasing feeding and/or pumping sessions each day. If you still have trouble getting baby to nurse, be sure to reach out to your doctor or Lactation Consultant to find a strategy that works for you and your little one!