It is my observation as a baby nurse that “nipple confusion” is not what it seems.
No Nipple Confusion
Bottle versus Breast
When you introduce a bottle to a baby who is learning to breastfeed, some babies do refuse to nurse at the breast again … temporarily. This is what lactation consultants call “nipple confusion.” But I believe your baby is not “confused” but is simply choosing the path of least resistance.
By comparison, at the very beginning of feeding it’s easier for your newborn to get milk from a bottle than from your breast. Milk from a bottle flows easily and immediately. Milk from your breast requires some sucking without reward until letdown (release of milk from the glands) allows the milk to flow easily. Your baby made a discovery, and wants the path of least resistance. There is no confusion about it.
Helping Your Baby
Knowing this may happen, there are some things you can do to help your baby transition from bottle back to breast.
You may express some milk with your hand or a pump to stimulate letdown and get the flow of milk started before you put your baby to breast. This readily available milk makes it easier for your baby to get instant gratification without too much work.
You may also leave some expressed milk on your nipple to give your baby the smell and taste that promotes a good latch (that is, a wide-open mouth as full of mom as possible) that will help your baby get the milk more easily.
You might also try putting your baby to breast before fully awake, letting natural sucking cues take over while your baby is still sleepy.
After successfully feeding with a bottle, and returning successfully to feed at the breast, your baby should be able to switch between the two methods of feeding as needed. It just may take a little patience and understanding.
Here are some benefits that bottle feeding provides.
Bottle feeding is usually easier for mothers and babies to learn.
It’s comforting to see how much your baby is taking at each feeding.
Any trusted person of your choice can feed your baby.
New mothers may take a baby-feeding break and get much needed rest.
Bottle feeding in public is easily accepted.
Mothers who bottle-feed may take medications as needed without worry of passing unwanted chemicals to their baby.
Mothers who bottle-feed may wear non-baby-related clothing sooner.
Mothers who bottle-feed may practice estrogen-containing oral contraception sooner, as concerns about decrease in breast milk volume do not apply.
Human Touch, Attention, and Love
You can enhance your baby’s bottle-feeding experience by intentionally adding human touch, attention, and love, the three elements of intentional baby care. The mom and baby in the picture above are sharing this powerful connection that accompanies intentional baby care.
All of the care you give your baby, whether bottle-feeding, changing a diaper, or soothing your baby is elevated to extraordinary care when you intentionally add attention, touch, and love.
Gathering information will help you choose for your newborn.
Making the decision to feed your newborn by bottle or by breast can be confusing for some new mothers. Here are some thoughts that may help you.
Whether your baby is in your womb, in your arms, or in your future, you have within you a reliable guide to help you make decisions on behalf of your newborn. This guide is the feeling you get when presented with any choice … most commonly known as your gut response.
As you gather information for and against bottle and breast this guide within you will react to the information you find. When you “feel good” about what you are learning, adopt that information or belief as your own. When you “feel bad” about what you are learning, discard that information and choose another direction.
This internal guide, that responds to the information you gather, works for all of your decisions for your baby, not just for feeding decisions.
When you make a choice that feels right for you, you will be happier. And when that happiness persists, it acts to confirm your decision.
Because your baby naturally takes his or her cues from you, you’ll see that when you are happy your baby will be happier too!