Nipple confusion is a phrase that has entered the world of infant parenting and feeding in recent years. It refers to a baby who may get confused and stop breast feeding if he or she is offered too many different types of nipples in the early days, weeks and months of life-pacifiers and various bottle nipples, in addition to the nipples on mother’s breast can all make it difficult for a new baby to differentiate and learn the proper techniques for successful breastfeeding. Since nursing from mother’s breast requires a different sucking process than does the various types of bottle nipples and pacifier nipples, a baby can become confused and challenged by the changes and choose the simplest way and cease being able to nurse properly-or never develop the ability to breast feed successfully because of the confusing array of nipples being offered.
Childbirth educators, lactation consultants and other medical and birthing professionals, who support new mothers and babies in the breast feeding process, suggest that avoiding pacifiers and bottle nipples in the earliest days and weeks will help to prevent nipple confusion. By allowing the baby to focus on learning how to properly breast feed, and developing his muscles and sucking ability, the baby may be less likely to have feeding and sucking problems.
Nipple confusion can also occur in bottle fed babies if they are offered different types of bottle and pacifier nipples. Some parents find that they have to try two or three different types of bottle nipples to find one that “works” for their baby and that their baby can comfortably and happily nurse from. Additionally, once a baby becomes attached to a particular type of eating from a particular nipple, he may not switch or take another type of nipple easily.
The longer a mother and baby are able to breast feed exclusively and the baby uses the mother’s breast for her sucking needs (instead of a pacifier), the less likely the baby is to experience nipple confusion. While this may mean less flexibility in the early days, weeks or months after baby’s birth-it does help the mother develop a good milk supply and cements the breast feeding bond and relationship between the mother and baby. If a baby does become confused and have problems with nipple confusion, it may take some time to correct the problem.
For more information, mothers can contact a lactation consultant, childbirth educator, midwife, obstetrician or other medical professional, or La Leche League is always a good resource: www.lalecheleague.org.