Breastfeeding Series: Nipple Confusion – My Take on It

So many books, doctors, and advice columns warn of the problems of nipple confusion, and highly recommend that you have breastfeeding well established before offering other suckling objects. While I do agree that it is important to establish sound breastfeeding habits, I also have come to realize that it is important to expose your baby to pacifiers and bottles early enough. Case in point, my first daughter. I was so set on no pacifiers or bottles until at least 6 weeks, and one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t introduce these habits earlier. My oldest, Allison, never learned to like the pacifier, which was good and bad. At times I feel she could have benefited from a pacifier to enable her to soothe herself. Instead, I was scared she would become a three year old with a pacifier, or I would rely on the pacifier too much as a plug. I was wrong. And as a seasoned pediatrician once told me at one of Allison’s well-checks, “nipple confusion, blah!” Sucking on a bottle or pacifier is very different from sucking on a breast. It is more that one might not want the baby to prefer a bottle over a breast, especially since it is easier to get nourishment from a bottle teat.  On the other hand, if babies are never exposed to a bottle and need to receive milk from a bottle every so often, like when mom goes back to work, then what happens, as did with my daughter, is that babies may learn not to take a bottle well and will continue instead to seek nourishment only from mom.

Allison rarely took more than 3 ounces in a bottle, so on the days I worked she would wait to get her big feedings till I came home. Really, there was nothing wrong with that either, but I would have preferred her to be happy receiving a bottle. I waited till she was 6 weeks old to give her a bottle, when I wished I had maybe tried consistently around 3 weeks. So, as many people say, your first child is your guinea pig, so number two got her first bottle at just 2 weeks old! (And so far so good, she chugs down her milk and is satisfied when finished.) Another feat for Jolie that Alli didn’t really do: the pacifier. I was afraid to offer this too early to Allison and she never wanted to suck on one by the time she was 6 weeks old when I decided to offer it. We might have been able to soothe many sleepless nights if I had just allowed a pacifier earlier.

So with Jolie, I consulted both a lactation consultant and a pediatrician in the hospital, and neither objected to her having a pacifier on day 2! She was starting to want to sit and pacify on me, and I didn’t want to start that. Jolie had already, however, established good breastfeeding skills, and was latching well, otherwise we would have waited. I should also mention that many hospitals will bring the baby back from the nursery with a pacifier unless you note in your birth plan not to do this. I did want to make the decision about when my daughters would be given the pacifier for the first time, so I clearly spelled this out in the birth plan: no pacifiers please! Jolie takes one throughout the day, spits it out when she isn’t needing it, and it has been a comfort for her. Who knows, maybe she is just a calmer baby, or maybe Allison would have been a little calmer, had she had something to suck on. And that’s my two cents on nipple confusion. 🙂

This entry was posted in Birth Plan, Bottles, Breasfeeding/Nursing, Newborn, Pacifiers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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