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Breastfeeding Magazine

Nipple Confusion – Prevention and Help When Baby Won’t Breastfeed



Help for Nipple ConfusionLearning to prevent nipple confusion can also prevent many other breastfeeding problems. But if you think your child already has it, you can still take steps to reverse it.

Learning to Breastfeed

One of the most complicated aspects of caring for a newborn is getting them properly nourished. Some moms have champion feeders who take right to the breast, but sometimes those champs suddenly decide they don’t want the nipple anymore. Other new moms have difficult feeders who seem not to like the breast, or that struggle to properly latch. Many moms also have to worry about going back to work and caring for other obligations in life while breastfeeding.

In the middle of all of this comes the issue of nipple confusion. This is something every new mother must be aware of, preferably before the baby is born. Even if you are blessed with a breastfeeding champion, this is something you have to actively prevent.

What Is Nipple Confusion?

No pacifier Nipple confusion occurs when a breastfeeding baby mixes up the sucking motions required for the breast, the bottle, and the pacifier. Breastfeeding is a skill that babies have to learn. The breast must be latched and then sucked in a specific way in order for the milk to flow freely. This motion is different from the way a baby sucks on a bottle or a pacifier.

Babies who never experience the bottle or pacifier will learn to breastfeed without confusion. When they are later introduced to the plastic nipples, they can become confused on which sucking motion to use when breastfeeding. The common signs of nipple confusion include:

  • Struggles to properly latch
  • Inability to latch properly
  • Pain for mom
  • Limited milk flow while feeding
  • Refusal of the breast
  • Crying and fussing while feeding

The baby is not sucking properly for the breast, so the milk does not come out as it should. This can be painful for moms, and it is very frustrating for the baby. They are hungry and want to feed, but they cannot figure out what they are supposed to do at the breast.

Preventing Nipple Confusion

nipple confusion helpThe best way to prevent nipple confusion is to stick solely with breastfeeding. Unfortunately, this is not realistic for all moms today. The alternative is to limit bottle feeding as much as possible and avoid giving your baby pacifiers. When you are with your baby, allow them to soothe and comfort themselves using your nipples rather than a pacifier. Breastfeed as often as possible, even if you are tired or there are other things that need done.

When you have to give your baby a bottle, make sure the plastic nipple is slow flow (here are ones we like best!) so it closely mimics the slow release of milk at the breast. There are some higher quality nipples designed with a more natural nipple shape and feel. Those are worth the investment.

As long as you want your baby to breastfeed, you should keep the breast as the top method of feeding. Avoid pacifiers and use the most natural, slow flowing bottle nipples you can find. If you do want to introduce pacifiers and bottles, wait until your child is at least 8-12 weeks old and your a breastfeeding easily and without any problems.

Finally, use pumped breast milk rather than formula . (How to create a stash!)  You do not want the baby to start preferring the sugary taste or texture of the formula, as that may lead to them refusing the breast.

Help! My Baby Won’t Take the Breast!

So, what if your baby is already refusing to take your breast? This is something that commonly happens when babies are introduced to plastic nipples and struggle with the real thing. One thing you can do is try to trick your baby into taking to the breast again. Feed them a bottle very close to your breast, then quickly pull the bottle out mid-feed and place the baby’s mouth over your nipple. Keep trying if it does not work the first time around.

You can retrain most babies to take the breast again. The best thing you can do is eliminate plastic nipples for awhile.

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What to do if baby stops breastfeeding due to nipple confusion...and stop it from happening again.