Nipple confusion, in basic terms, is when your baby forgets how to nurse or how to draw milk from a breast nipple. It is caused when a baby is introduced too early to artificial nipples like pacifiers or bottle nipples. Since artificial nipples are easier to use and require much less effort on the baby’s part to get the milk out the baby may become confused when then placed on the breast and be unable to draw milk out.
Babies are born with a natural ability to suck. However, the type of sucking necessary to draw milk from an artificial nipple is different than the sucking technique for drawing milk out of a breast nipple. A breast nipple is soft and requires the baby to open very wide and then engage many muscles in order to suckle properly and draw out the milk. When nursing a baby uses 40 different facial muscles! An artificial nipple is firmer and pre-formed and can be coaxed into the baby’s mouth without much effort on the part of the baby, the suckle required to draw milk out of a bottle nipple is very minimal.
When nipple confusion occurs you may notice the baby refuses to latch and if he or she does latch they get very frustrated and upset almost immediately. This is caused by the fact the baby has forgotten how to draw milk from the breast nipple and is getting frustrated because he or she can’t get anything to come out. You can imagine why the poor little thing is screaming so hard, all he wants to do is fill his hungry tummy with yummy milk but he can’t get anything to come out.
If you suspect your baby is suffering from nipple confusion you have your work cut out for you but you can get past this breastfeeding challenge and continue down the road of successful breastfeeding. Just remember to be patient and avoid getting too frustrated.
- Offer the breast at every feeding.
- Begin to nurse your baby before he or she shows signs of being overly hungry or before he or she becomes fussy.
- Avoid offering your baby artificial nipples until the nipple confusion has resolved, if possible.
- Consider changing your nursing position to something more relaxing and comfortable for both you and the baby.
- Contact a lactation consultant for some assistance. They may be able to give you some advice over the phone, or better yet meet up with you and help you figure this out.
- If you baby appears to be losing weight or shows other signs of not getting enough to eat like too few wet or soiled diapers than contact your child’s pediatrician.
Nipple confusion can lead to other problems as well such as engorgement, clogged milk ducts, an extended nursing strike, sore nipples (from improper latch) and possibly loss of weight by the baby if he or she is not getting enough to eat so it is important to back on track quickly. Many moms who have babies who develop nipple confusion often give up on breastfeeding. But, you can get past this challenge with a little effort, patience and persistence.
The best way to avoid nipple confusion to begin with is to put off introducing artificial nipples to your infant until breastfeeding is well established. Once you and your baby have the hang of breastfeeding and are in a good routine nipple confusion is much less likely.