How Nipple Confusion Can Make Your Baby Balk At Breast ?

Babies who are made to switch between breastfeeding and bottle feed or offered pacifiers too early, often hesitate from latching or altogether forget the natural skill of sucking.

Certainly, the milk discharge from the breasts and bottle are different. Your baby doesn’t have to put much effort when it comes to bottle. Whereas suckling breast milk is a reflex that comes naturally to a newborn.


How The Baby Sucks Out Breast Milk

The sucking or rooting reflex causes the baby to open their mouth and latch on the breasts. The nipple and the areola are pulled back in the mouth against the roof.

Your baby’s tiny tongue then pushes the nipple against the roof of the mouth and their gums press against the areola. The lips seal the tissues of the breast and rhythmic movement of the tongue draws the milk out of the breast by suction.


How The Baby Drinks From the Bottle

While bottle-feeding, the baby neither requires to pull back the nipple nor use their tongue movement to suck. The milk comes out easily when the baby sucks with his lips.

Since the milk comes out even when the baby doesn’t suck, feeding through a bottle seems comparatively easy and doesn’t require much effort. To stop the milk flow, he simply has to move the tongue forward and stop the flow.


Problems When Switching Between Breastfeeding And Bottlefeeding

When the baby comes back to breastfeeding after feeding on the bottle, the milk doesn’t come as easily. Since the similar coordination of tongue isn’t required in bottle feeding.
Receiving sufficient milk, thrusting their tongue upward while bottle-feeding, they forget that latching on the breast will require them to move their tongue forwards and upward over the nipple.

When the baby sucks on the breast, they don’t open their mouths wide-enough or aren’t mindful that they need to pull back the nipple. Instead, they simply suck on the nipple, which doesn’t yield much milk.


Another thing that could bother your little one is that while he was feeding on the bottle, the flow of milk was unrestricted. Coming back to breastfeeding, they still had to suck on the nipple for a minute or two to stimulate the breast and allow the milk to flow out, which could make breastfeeding unsatisfying and frustrating for your little one.

How To Reduce The Chances Of Nipple Confusion

Babies, in the first place, shouldn’t be given pacifiers or introduced to bottles during the first 3-4 weeks after birth. This is the time they are still learning and perfecting the ability to latch on the breast and suck.


If baby needs to be provided with milk supplement due to medical reasons, there are alternatives to bottle-feeding like spoon feeding, cup feeding and so on.

There could also be times when the mother is not available to feed the baby. At that time, bottle feeding could be the usual choice. However, if this happens often, your baby may get accustomed to feeding through the bottle and withdraw when breastfed. Find out different ways to feed your baby other than bottle-feeding.


Nipple confusion can be avoided if bottle-feeding and the use of pacifiers is reduced. Don’t make your child bottle-feed because you won’t be available to breastfeed—at least, not when they have just started breastfeeding. This makes it is easier for them to learn one skill at a time and not confuse between the two.

Use other methods of feeding over bottle-feeding. If your baby has already developed nipple confusion, reintroduce them to breastfeeding by increasing skin-to-skin contact—let them be close to your breast while you are feeding them.


To stimulate your milk flow, so that your baby doesn’t have to wait for long, using a breast pump or express the milk manually before latching the baby. This way your baby will receive your breast milk with less effort.

If your baby is too hungry, they won’t be patient enough to wait for the milk flow and prefer a bottle feed. To avoid that, breastfeed your baby in the morning when they are waking up and don’t need the feed immediately.

Wait for your baby to open their mouth wide enough and move their tongue forward and downward before latching them onto your breast. If your milk flow isn’t enough, in the beginning, use dropper or syringe to drip milk into their mouth. This way the baby will continue sucking and won’t withdraw from the breast.

Re-introducing your baby to the breast milk could take time. Stay patient and appreciate even a small progress that they make in a day. Consult your lactation specialist if your baby doesn’t seem to accept breastfeeding.