Are you looking to prevent nipple confusion?
Now that you’re breastfeeding and using bottles to feed your baby, things can get tricky.
You’re now worried about this whole ‘nipple confusion’ causing problems for your breastfed baby.
I’ve created this guide to help you prevent nipple confusion. And I’ll teach you how to deal with it if it does happen.
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What is Nipple Confusion?
Did you know that your baby feeds different with a breast and a bottle?
Your baby has a different suck pattern. And when you change between the two, it can confuse your baby.
If you give your baby a bottle and then they struggle to attach to the breast, this is known as ‘nipple confusion’
Another way of describing this issue is ‘bottle preference’.
What Causes Nipple Confusion
When breastfeeding your baby will press their tongue to the roof of the mouth. They pretty much use their tongue to ‘roll’ the milk out of the breast.
Now your baby can’t do much for themselves, but one thing they do know is how to suck. It’s natural to them.
It takes a lot of effort for your baby to get milk out of the breast. Your baby will use up to 40 facial muscles when breastfeeding – that makes me tired just reading that!
However, bottles are a different ball game.
Feeding on a bottle teat takes a lot less effort for your baby. The milk pretty much pours into their mouth, without even needing to suck.
You’re baby doesn’t have much control over the milk flow and will often overfeed.
It’s not difficult why your baby would start to prefer bottles. It’s simple. They don’t need to work so hard.
This is much more likely to happen if your baby struggles to breastfeed.
Reduce Nipple Confusion
Avoid nipples for Newborns
The best way to prevent nipple confusion is to avoid introducing a bottle or pacifier early. That means no teats for your baby before they reach 1 month old.
After a month yOur baby will have a better breastfeeding technique and your milk supply will be established.
If you do need to use a bottle, make sure you use a paced feeding technique, to mimic the rhythm of breastfeeding.
Although I’d recommend using one of the following techniques to avoid a bottle before one month.
Alternative Feeding Methods
You may be unexpectedly separated from your newborn baby, especially in the first month.
If your baby needs some sort of supplementation (expressed milk or formula), I’d recommend cup feeding rather than a bottle.
Cup feeding is easier when your baby is younger as they still take small amounts with each feed.
Check out my advice of alternative ways to feed to baby expressed breast milk.
Choosing a Teat
Having the right feeding teat can make a difference to whether your baby gets nipple confused.
You can now buy feeding teats designed to mimic the breastfeeding suction. IF anything they make your baby work to get the milk out of the bottle.
These teats give your baby more control over the milk flow. Plus they prevent your baby preferring the bottle over your breast.
Teats to AVOID
These are features you want to avoid when looking for a teat for your breastfed baby:
- Very wide or very narrow base
- Leak easily
- Fast flow
Read: Best Bottles For Breastfed Babies
How to Prevent Nipple Confusion
Lots of Skin to Skin
Let’s get right back to basics. SKin to skin is amazing for breastfeeding. It will be like starting all over again. Like when your baby was a newborn.
Lots of skin to skin will help your baby smell your milk and have easy access to feed. A great way to do this is using a soft baby carrier. That way you can keep baby close and get things done.
You’ll also start to notice signs your baby wants to feed.
Learn Feeding Cues
DO you know what your baby does to show you they are hungry?
Crying is actually a late feeding cue for your baby. they’ll give you lots of clues before then that they’re hungry. Check out my advice on feeding cue here, it includes a handy diagram to refer to.
The reason pacifiers aren’t recommended is because they mask your baby’s feeding cues.
Remeber lots of skin to skin is a greats way to recognize your baby’s feeding cues.
Start your let down
When you start feeding it can take a few minutes for your milk to start flowing. That means your baby has to suck for a while without getting any milk.
Now you see why they get easily frustrated. A bottle wouldn’t do that to them!
A good way around this is to stimulate your milk flow before you put baby onto your breast. Try a little breast massage or hand expressing a few drops.
then when you put your baby tot he breast, the milk ready and waiting.
How to Deal with Nipple Confusion
If your baby is reluctant to feed for a few days, speak to a lactation expert. I’d recommend you use expressed milk to feed your baby until the issue is solved.
A breastfeeding expert will be able to inform you if the problem is in fact nipple confusion. Other breastfeeding issues such as incorrect positioning and attachment, tongue tie or engorgement may also cause your baby to reject the breast. Here are some tips to help you deal with the problem in the short term.
Fix That Latch
Make sure your baby has a good latch onto your breast. Check out my guide on a great breastfeeding latch, if you don’t know how.
My guide will show you how to do the nipple sandwich. This helps your baby get a better grip of your breast and positions the nipple in the right place.
If your baby is getting frustrated by not getting instant milk, hand express a few drops into their mouth. This should stimulate their suckling reflex and get the breastfeed stared.
Make sure your baby has a nice, wide mouth before they latch to your nipple.
If you are really struggling to get baby back onto the breast, you can try a nipple shield as a last resort. I don’t recommend them for long-term use as they can reduce your milk supply. However, they may be enough to coax your baby back onto the breast in the short term.