Baby Care, Baby Product

What is nipple confusion and how to avoid it?

It can be a dream come true to make switching from the breast to the bottle seamless. After all, it will bring much-needed ease to perform daily activities such as going to work or even just jumping into the shower. Yet, it is pretty common to face difficulties in getting your baby to feed from the bottle. Babies sometimes simply refuse to breastfeed too. However, you should try breastfeeding first, as it  provides great nutrition for your baby. If you can’t breastfeed or are simply ready to wean and make the switch, Nipple Confusion is something you should know more about.

What is nipple confusion?

Nipple confusion is an umbrella term that can mean any of the following – 

  • Your baby refuses to feed from a bottle
  • Your baby tries to breastfeed in the same fashion as from a bottle

Nipple confusion occurs because feeding requires babies to develop a coordinated movement of the hand and the jaw, which can be tough at first. It is much more pronounced while breastfeeding. Here is a brief breakdown of the process – 

  • The baby opens its mouth wide so that the nipple and a large part of the areola reach deep inside, and the baby can latch properly.
  • Next, the tongue and the lower jaw help the baby in holding the areola against the roof of their mouth and simultaneously creating a rift between the nipple and the areola for smooth flow.
  • Finally, the gums compress the areola, and the tongue rapidly draws out the milk from the nipple by moving from front to back.

On the other hand, milk flows from a bottle no matter what the baby does due to gravity. So, the process is entirely different. Here’s how – 

  • There is no need for the baby to open its mouth wide or ensure that its lips are properly turned out to form a tight grip to create a tight seal.
  • Both the action of drawing the nipple deeply in the mouth and the front to back movement of the tongue become necessary.
  • The baby has control over the flow of the milk and can stop it if it flows too quickly by thrusting its tongue up and forward.

Nipple confusion signs

If the baby is facing nipple confusion, it will try to feed on a bottle the same way it does from a breast. Watch out for these nipple confusion signs – 

  1. They might thrust their tongue up while sucking milk which will push the nipple away from the mouth.
  2. If the baby is accustomed to feeding on a bottle, it will fail to open its mouth wide enough. It will lead to soreness in the mother’s breast, and the milk intake of the baby will be inadequate.
  3. It takes some time to stimulate the let-down reflex while breastfeeding. This process will become frustrating for a baby facing nipple confusion.

The last sign is more common with older babies. The pressing demands of today mean that mothers are not always available to breastfeed their child. In such a scenario, the child becomes accustomed to the ease and accessibility of a bottle. Moreover, long stretches between breastfeeding also reduce the supply of the mother’s milk. 

How to avoid nipple confusion?

As discussed earlier, the best way to avoid nipple confusion would be to wait to introduce the baby to bottles and let it get used to breastfeeding first. This process is likely to take around four to six months. Meanwhile, you can introduce a pacifier. ñinio’s baby pacifiers fit snugly in a baby’s mouth no matter what its age is. They are also easy to clean and come in delightful designs. 

However, you must wait for at least three weeks before introducing pacifiers to avoid nipple confusion. If you have introduced the baby to a bottle and now facing issues with breastfeeding, you can adopt the following solutions –  

  • It is a good idea to stick to breastfeeding only. If that isn’t possible, try to limit the use of bottles to when you are not available to breastfeed the baby.
  • Equip yourself with the best breastfeeding techniques to ensure the comfort of both you and your baby.
  • If the wait is frustrating for the baby, you can pump out a little milk before breastfeeding. It will speed up the process.
  • Don’t wait for the baby to be hungry to breastfeed. Create a schedule as it will give both you and your baby the space to get things right.


1.How do I get my baby to latch after nipple confusion?

If you have an older baby who prefers the bottle over the breast, you can ensure that your milk supply is high by pumping regularly even when you are away from the baby. Build a cordial breastfeeding relationship with the baby. Stick to breastfeeding when you are home and resort to bottle feeding only when you are away.

On the other hand, if your baby refuses to drink from the bottle, here are the possible solutions – 

  • Ask the other parent to regularly offer a bottle to the baby when you are away.
  • Keep the mood light and fun during bottle feeding sessions. Cuddle with the baby as much as possible and try to mimic breastfeeding. Take a break if your baby gets upset.
  • You can also experiment with different nipples. It will help you in arriving at one which fulfils the needs of your baby in the best way. 

2.What is the best bottle to avoid nipple confusion?

Let’s face it – no bottle can replicate a breast. Yet, here are some features that you can consider to avoid nipple confusion – 

  • Choose the bottle with the slowest flow so that the baby gets accustomed to actively sucking the milk out.
  • The shape of the nipple should change gradually from the base to the tip. It should have a wide neck like that of ñinio baby bottles. 
  • Don’t go for a nipple shape that you would not prefer for your breasts.

The bottom line

The term nipple ‘confusion’ is a misnomer. Babies are born geniuses. They are hardwired to breastfeed but are quick to switch when they find that bottle feeding requires less effort. The trick is to keep the actions involved in both bottle feeding and breastfeeding as similar as possible. If you have any further queries, feel free to reach out to us.

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