Nipple Confusion in Newborns – Fiction and Facts

5 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.

Nipple Confusion final

Nipple confusion in newborns is quite common, and it happens when a baby struggles hard to find a difference between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. From the baby’s point of view, bottle feeding is not the same as breastfeeding and hence it becomes difficult for them to latch on breasts and suck. This creates confusion. Nipple confusion arises when your baby finds it difficult to switch between bottle and breast. Babies usually use different techniques to drink from bottle and breast and they are born with an instinct for breastfeeding. But sometimes they get confused when they are made to switch from breastfeeding to a bottle or a pacifier.

Breastfeeding is a very tiring task for nursing mothers as they cannot give time to themselves as they are in a dilemma of breastfeeding timely and when their babies require it. But with the introduction of bottle feeding, nursing moms can give at least some time to themselves, and this will work in favor of their well-being. But as babies are familiar with breastfeeding for a long time since birth, they may find it difficult to resort to bottle feeding easily. And this condition is usually termed “nipple confusion”.

In This Article

What is Nipple Confusion?

Nipple confusion occurs when a baby is finding some difficulty in latching or switching to bottle feed from breastfeeding. It occurs when a baby refuses to latch the milk from the bottle just because they are not finding the coordinated movements of the mouth and jaw which they used to find before.

In some bottles, the teats are rigid and hence this means that your baby would get a good flow of milk and they would also not have to struggle much to get the milk. On the contrary, when you are breastfeeding your baby, they need to wide open their mouth to latch.

Causes of Nipple Preference in Newborn

Causes of Nipple Preference

Babies are automatically born with good knowledge about how to suck. This means that their brains have adapted well to how they must suck from their mother’s breast. But after a certain point of time, when they are made to develop the preference for the teat of a bottle, they forget about breastfeeding and there are several reasons behind this.

Some people figure out that the cause of nipple confusion in babies is that they find it difficult to suck from the breasts as compared to sucking milk from a bottle. Whereas others think that a baby forgets about sucking from the breast when they learn bottle feeding. But this is not true. A baby is instinctively aware of breastfeeding from the moment they are born and hence a baby will not prefer to bottle feed unless and until breastfeeding becomes troublesome to get enough milk from their mother’s breasts.

[Read : Sucking Reflex in Babies]

Signs of Nipple Confusion in Babies

When a baby is fed with the same technique of breastfeeding and bottle feeding, then there are chances that your baby might have “nipple confusion”. The earliest sign of nipple confusion is that your baby isn’t getting the amount of milk as required and hence this might be because they are having difficulty in latching, which needs to be treated.

There are several signs of nipple confusion, mentioned below.

  • A baby thrust its tongue while sucking, and pushes the nipple out of its mouth.
  • Not able to wide open their mouth while latching.
  • Becomes cranky when breast milk is not instantly available to them.

[Read : Baby Latching]

How to Prevent Nipple Confusion?

How to Prevent Nipple Confusion

It is a common question which is asked by many nursing moms “how can I prevent nipple confusion?” Well, there are some tips through you can prevent nipple confusion. Let’s have a look at them below.

1. Return to Basics

If your baby has lost their connection with breastfeeding, then it is necessary to make them familiar with the same again. This is important to avoid nipple confusion and hence for this, you need to have a few sessions of breastfeeding with your baby when you will be cuddling your baby towards your skin and giving them kangaroo care. This will bring back their attention to you and latching will become easier.

2. Work on Making Milk Flow Smoother

Your baby makes a lot of effort on their part for latching the milk from your breasts but you also have to make a lot of effort on your part by making the milk flow smoother for your baby. You can do this by pumping your breasts while feeding your baby or even pumping them to reduce the baby’s efforts.

3. Keep in Mind the Timing

When you are just about to breastfeed your baby, make sure that your baby is hungry as this is the only way through which your baby feels motivated to latch on. But in this process, do not let your baby starve as this will make him lose his energy levels to suck hard to get the milk.

[Read : How to Know Your Baby is Hungry – Know the Signs]

4. Keep Bottle Feed at Bay

When you feed your baby with both bottles and the breasts, it’ll create confusion for them, and this is why it is quite important to keep the bottle feeding away from your baby at least until you start feeding them with solids.

How Can You Help Your Baby With Nipple Confusion?

How Can You Help Your Baby With Nipple Confusion

If you think that the condition of nipple confusion is causing you and your baby a lot of unnecessary problems, then you should seek professional help as it is quite important to get rid of such problems at the earliest to avoid further complications.

You can book an appointment with your doctor and learn about how you can avoid nipple confusion in your baby. The doctor will then share the apt tactics and hence these tactics might eliminate this problem and help for a smooth latching session.


1. What is the Difference Between Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding?

As per doctors and healthcare experts, breastfeeding is always the best option for newborns. Because mother’s milk is always at the right temperature and has all the essential nutrients which are required by a baby’s body. However, bottle feeding is done when the option of breastfeeding is difficult to get such as in case of breast engorgement, lack of time, tiredness, etc. making bottle feeding a preferable option.

2. Will Nipple Confusion Affect My Baby?

No, nipple confusion will not affect your baby until and unless your baby is getting enough breastmilk in some of the other forms. Breast milk is an essential intake for your baby. Because it is packed with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals which are highly needed by your baby in the growing age. Expressed milk becomes an option when breastfeeding is not possible due to several reasons such as lack of time, energy, tiredness, unavailability of the mother, etc.

Read Also: 7 Signs Your Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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