When breastfed babies are given an artificial nipple to drink
from, they might become confused and not know how to drink from the
breast. These two feeding methods entail completely different tongue and
mouth movements and swallowing skills.
During breastfeeding a baby uses his jaw and lips to pump and grip
the nipple and breast for effective breast drainage. The suction during breastfeeding promotes oral development in babies.
Not all babies will develop nipple confusion, some babies have no
problem going back and forth between the bottle and the breast. It commonly occurs during the first few weeks of a baby’s life.
What Causes Nipple confusion?
When a baby breastfeeds, he/she can regulate the amount of milk flowing
from the breast, but a bottle flows more rapidly. If the baby has been
exclusively or partially bottle-fed and then expected to breastfeed, he/she might refuse to take the breast. This is sometimes called a "nipple
A mother might introduce the artificial nipple too early and
then the baby might not want to drink from the breast anymore, because drinking
from the bottle is so much easier.
The best thing to do is to keep your baby
exclusively on the breast before introducing an artificial nipple for
the first 6 weeks, this will get your own milk supply established and will allow your baby some time to learn, to breastfeed.
Signs of Nipple Confusion
The baby thrusts his/her tongue upward during sucking and pushes the breast out of the mouth.
The baby doesn’t open he's/her mouth wide enough and therefore only sucks the tip of the nipple, which can cause nipple pain.
The baby becomes fussy and irritable because milk does not flow as easily as with a bottle.
The mother's milk supply often decreases because her baby does not latch on correctly.
Never force a baby to breastfeed, gently encourage your baby to accept. Praise and encourage your baby when he/she succeeds.
Make it clear to the nurses (even with a special notice on your baby's crib) and doctors at the hospital, that you do not want them to give your baby a bottle. Sometimes the nurses will feed a baby at night while you sleep, thinking they are helping, but actually doing more harm than good. Keep your baby in your room, so that you can breastfeed on demand.
Mothers that want to breastfeed a nipple confused baby, will need
to pump milk a few minutes before feeding their baby, so that
their milk ejection reflex is stimulated; this is so that their baby does not have to
wait for the milk to start flowing.
What about bottle feeding problems “Bottle confusion"?
Baby won't take a bottle?
This refers to when a baby refuses bottle feeding after he/she has been breastfed exclusively. Getting your baby to take a bottle, may be frustrating, especially when a mother is returning to work.
Sometimes a baby won't take a bottle because of the heavy flow of an artificial teat. Most times, all you need to do is give your baby a bottle that has a slow flowing teat.
The best thing to do, if you would really like your baby to drink from an artificial nipple, is to introduce it early enough (after 6 weeks) so that your baby can get familiar with both the breast and artificial nipple. This is helpful, if the mother is thinking of returning to work after a few months.