Birth Definitions

Nipple Confusion Definition


Nipple confusion is a term used in the pregnancy and birthing industry to describe the situation where a baby has difficulty latching onto a nipple for breastfeeding. This can be due to the baby’s preference for a bottle, or due to an incorrect latch. Nipple confusion can lead to poor milk transfer causing the baby to become frustrated and cry when trying to breastfeed, and may even cause the baby to refuse to breastfeed altogether.

Causes of Nipple Confusion

There are several reasons why nipple confusion can occur. One common reason is that the baby has been given a bottle before attempting to breastfeed. This can happen when the mother is away from her baby, or when the father gives the baby a bottle of expressed milk. The baby may become accustomed to the faster flow of milk from a bottle, and find it difficult to adjust to the slower flow from a breast. Second, the baby may be used to the artificial nipple (made of rubber or silicone) and find it difficult to latch onto the mother’s breast. Third, the baby may be confused by the different motions required to breastfeed vs. bottle-feed. Another common reason for nipple confusion is an incorrect latch. If the baby does not latch on correctly, he or she may not be able to get enough milk, and may become frustrated. Poor latching can also lead to soreness and cracked nipples for the mother.

Correcting Nipple Confusion

If you think your baby may be experiencing nipple confusion, there are several things you can do to help resolve the issue. First, try offering your breast more frequently. This will help your baby learn that breastfeeding is worth the effort, and will help him or her get practice latching on correctly. You can also try pumping some milk beforehand so that your baby does not get too hungry while trying to latch on correctly. If you are away from your baby and need to give him or her a bottle, try using one with a slow flow nipple. You can also try giving your baby smaller amounts of milk more often, so that he or she does not become too full and sleepy at feeding time. Make sure you are relaxed while nursing, as stress can contribute to nipple confusion. If your baby has trouble latching on correctly, ask a lactation consultant or other healthcare professional for help. They can show you how to position your baby and how to help him or her latch on correctly. Finally, it is important to be patient and keep trying – most babies will eventually figure out how to breastfeed successfully!

This image shows how often the term ‘Nipple Confusion’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

Other Related Terms

Some terms closely associated with nipple confusion include: 

  • Hand expression
  • Breast pump
  • Artificial nipple
  • Breastfeeding
  • Nipple shields
  • Bottles

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