From Nipple Confusion to Breast Success!

If you have been following this little blog or my Instagram you may already know, my breastfeeding journey has been just full of events. We have gone through lip/tongue tie revisions, syringe feeding, giving up dairy and other foods, nipple shields, bottle feeding, and now… nipple confusion. I started to notice that my little girl started to experience nipple confusion at the beginning of August of this year. I had to go to class for a whole week from 8am-6pm so during those hours she took a bottle and towards the end of the week I started to notice she preferred the bottle. Thankfully we have overcome it, and I am excited to share some of the things I wish I had not done and also what I DID so that baby enjoys the breast again.

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WHY I INTRODUCED A BOTTLE. Some mommies never introduce a bottle and that is okay. But for me, it was VERY important that my little one know how to take a bottle because I had plans to complete my practicum this Fall (for my Master’s) and she would have to be Dad at least one full day a week. Also, I am not scared to admit that postpartum was physically SO ROUGH for me (maybe I’ll write about my experience soon?) and that by week 2 I was so excited to introduce a bottle because the thought of her depending solely on me for a feeding was incredibly overwhelming. At the beginning it can feel like all you are doing all day is breastfeeding. Plus, in my opinion, getting baby to take a bottle is a safety measure against unforeseen circumstances where you may not be able to be there for baby like in the case of a surgery, hospitalization, emergency travels, or if you plan to return to work/school.

WHAT IS NIPPLE CONFUSION? Nipple confusion occurs when baby prefers either the bottle or breast over the other. In most cases, nipple confusion can be quite stressful for breastfeeding moms when babies prefer to only eat from a bottle. However, there are many things you can do to avoid nipple confusion even when introducing a bottle.

WHAT DOES NIPPLE CONFUSION LOOK LIKE? Baby will be fussy at the breast and will refuse to or struggle with latching even when hungry. I remember my baby was sooooo fussy and clearly it was because she was hungry as she was rooting all over the place but as soon as I would attempt to breastfeed she would get even more mad. She would be instantly relieved with a bottle though.

HOW TO AVOID NIPPLE CONFUSION

Introduce a bottle early. I think some mamas would disagree with this first part. However, in my personal experience and from what I have learned in many mommy groups, the sooner you introduce the bottle the easier baby will take the bottle. We introduced a bottle at 2-3 weeks, and when she took it no problem I was so relieved. I believe that babies have a way harder time taking a bottle later as they are able to differentiate between bottle and breast. Introducing a bottle after mom has established a good latch with baby in my opinion is the best.

Get a slow-flow nipple. I did not have to try too many nipples and I think this is because baby was introduced to a bottle early. She just took the bottle the first time like a champ. These are bottles we used. It is important to ensure whatever bottle you start with has a slow-paced nipple though none of them will be as slow as the breast itself.

Practice but do not make a habit. When introducing a bottle it is important that it does not become a habit, not even a daily habit. I would suggest giving baby one bottle every other day, or twice a week so that baby is able to practice but does not prefer it or get used to it. Our baby now takes a bottle once a week for when I go to work.

Be mindful of how many ounces baby should have. It is easy for a bottle-fed baby to overeat. It is very important - especially if you are planning to return to work full-time that you learn how many ounces baby should be getting and how often. You can discuss this with your pediatrician. Our baby was definitely overeating during that week that I was gone and I did not know it. Once you know how many ounces baby should be getting you will be able to monitor and ensure that baby does not get more than he/she needs per bottle feeding session or otherwise he/she will may begin to prefer the bottle.

Practice slow-paced-feeding. THIS IS HUGE. My error was not being aware of the feeding technique called ‘SLOW PACED FEEDING.’ Most of us think that when bottle feeding a baby we should lay then horizontally and hold the bottle vertically over their mouth, NOOO!! To the contrary, baby should be sitting up as much as possible and the bottle should be horizontal so that baby gets milk only as she/he sucks . To learn how to slow-pace feed watch this video: https://youtu.be/UH4T70OSzGs

WINNING YOUR BABY BACK TO THE BREAST

It is not for the faint-hearted. Goodness, did we fight! As soon as I finally connected the dots and realized baby was experiencing nipple-confusion I had two options: make baby happy and give her bottles or work through and do all I can to see if I can win her back. There were a couple of times I did feel like giving up and start to just exclusively pump. Fussy babies are no fun and they can make you feel like a terrible mother. I knew all she wanted was a bottle and choosing to not give her one was tough on my heart. However, I reminded myself that I am the parent and that I know what is best for her so I committed to winning her back despite how hard it would be on the both of us. You are the parent, you know what is best, and YOU DO have the strength required to guide your baby/children in the right direction even when it is hard.

Make a plan and commit to it. For me that was committing to no bottle feeding any more, at all, unless absolutely necessary. When we did bottle feed we would ensure we followed slow-paced-feeding, gave her the adequate amount of ounces, and we bought a minbie bottle set as they are one of the preferred bottles for breastfeeding moms. My goal was to make bottle feeding challenging and offer the breast first and foremost. Yes my baby cried. I would talk to her, cry with her, rock her, go outside, go inside, do warm baths together, do lots of skin to skin, and work with her patiently so that she can give breastfeeding a second chance. There was so much bonding happening. Part of winning baby back to the breast is actually bonding with baby over anything and everything. We cuddled all the time and she napped in my arms often. I did not ever get mad with her or loose my temper. I knew this was my own fault and that if I was going to win her back it would be in her timing but with my boundaries. It took us a solid 3-4 days of struggling before she ‘surrendered’ and started to happily breastfeed again.

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Please know that I was not starving my child (and neither should you) as she did always end up eating. She never went more than 4 hours without eating. What would happen would be the following: she would refuse the breast, cry, I would do skin to skin, she would eventually fall asleep in my arms, then she would wake up much more calm and eat. We would go through this cycle every time she had to eat and it happened for about 3-4 days in a row. After day four I believe she realized breastfeeding was her only option and she started to breastfeed again without fighting. The more we practiced this the more she has enjoyed it and now prefers it.

Get creative. I tried so many things to help baby breastfeed again. A rocking chair, laying down, standing up, dangle feeding, a dark room, outside, in the tub, with a white noise maker, etc. Somethings worked better than others and you will learn what will help your baby relax and breastfeed. Eventually you will find your sweet spot!

Of course, this was only my experience and I am sure other mothers out there have different experiences that I would love to hear. If you are currently experiencing nipple confusion know that winning baby back is possible. You can do this! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

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