When there’s a new baby in the household things can be hectic, so the last thing you need is the added burden of nipple confusion. If you’re partially bottle feeding your baby, read on to learn all about nipple confusion and how Minbie can help you prevent it.
What is nipple confusion and why is it an issue?
It is recommended that babies be exclusively fed on breast milk for their first 6 months of life (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/) because breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed a baby and not exclusively feeding a baby with breast milk introduces a variety of risks for both Mom and Bub (https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/health-outcomes-associated-infant-feeding). Mothers are most likely to be able to produce enough breast milk for at least the first 6 months of their baby’s life if they exclusively breastfeed throughout this crucial period of development. This may be accomplished through direct-latch breastfeeding or a mother may express breast milk and partially or fully feed her baby using the expressed breast milk (EBM).
There are many reasons why a mother might choose or need to supplement, or even entirely replace, breast milk with formula. The important thing is for all babies to receive enough sustenance - fed is best! In some ways, exclusively direct-latch breastfeeding or purely bottle feeding a baby may be easier than mix-feeding as there’s no issue with nipple confusion. If, however, you direct-latch breastfeed some of the time and choose or need to bottle feed your baby with EBM or formula at other times, then nipple confusion is something you most definitely need to think about.
But ‘what actually is nipple confusion?’ I hear you ask. It’s a good question because the term is a little misleading; for instance, it doesn’t mean that a baby is confused about what a nipple is for. According to a scientific article in the Journal of Pediatrics, “the term nipple confusion refers to an infant's difficulty in achieving the correct oral configuration, latching technique, and suckling pattern necessary for successful breastfeeding after bottle feeding or other exposure to an artificial nipple”. Medicinenet also notes that “breastfeeding requires far more vigorous mouth and tongue motions and greater muscle coordination than bottle feeding”. In short, nipple confusion occurs when a baby has lost his or her instinctive knowledge of how to direct-latch breastfeed because he or she has learned to suck and/or feed in a different way.
If you want to partially breastfeed and partially bottle feed your baby then protecting Bub from nipple confusion is a key way of simplifying your mutual breastfeeding journey.
How does nipple confusion occur?
Babies have a variety of instinctual survival reflexes that help them survive life outside their mother’s womb. The sucking reflex is one such vital tactic so if a baby doesn’t breastfeed initially, he or she will rapidly learn how to suck on and feed from whatever is offered to him or her instead. This can result in nipple confusion in two main ways. Firstly, if an alternative feeding method requires Bub to latch on in a manner that is different from the way he or she instilatches onto the breast, then Bub may quickly forget how to direct-latch to the breast and thus develop nipple confusion. Secondly, if an alternative method requires Bub to swallow but not much effort needed on Bub’s part to obtain the milk, then Bub may soon develop nipple confusion as a result of not knowing how to go to the extra effort of direct-latch breastfeeding.
A baby’s instinctive breastfeeding technique involves:
- a proper direct-latch onto the breast with the nipple positioned in the roof of the baby’s mouth in such as way that Bub can obtain milk and Mom’s nipples are comfortable; and
- a complex feeding motion that effectively draws down milk into the baby’s mouth and supports the development of a healthy supply of milk in the mother’s breast.
Anything that interferes with one or more aspects of this technique is something that can cause nipple confusion.
Generic bottle nipples can cause nipple confusion
Generic bottles fitted with generic nipples can, unfortunately, cause nipple confusion in both of the above ways. The generic nipples do not mimic the functionality of breastfeeding, so babies fed with generic nipples develop a different way of feeding. Similarly, generic nipples provide an easy to obtain flow of expressed breast milk (EBM) or formula. As such, babies that are fed from bottles fitted with a generic nipple can develop bad feeding habits, such as a weak latch or lazy feeding motion. This results in Bub forgetting how to latch properly to Mom’s breast and preferring to feed from the bottle that doesn’t make him or her work for his or her feeds. Alarmingly, this has been known to happen in a day!
What about nipple shields?
A nipple shield is a thin, usually silicon, cover that is placed over a mother’s nipple for the duration of a breastfeed. Nipple shields can be helpful when a mother experiences some types of breastfeeding problems. For instance, if a mother has flat or inverted nipples a nipple shield may help Bub latch on. Similarly, if a baby has trouble feeding because he or she was born prematurely or because Bub has a physiological trait that inhibits latching (such as a high palate), a nipple shield may also help. Alternatively, a nipple shield may help Mom if she has developed sore or cracked nipples. It is important to note, however, that nipple shields change the way a baby needs to latch to the breast as well as the sucking action Bub needs to use to obtain the breast milk and as such, they can also cause nipple confusion.
If all of this sounds a bit alarming don’t panic! Minbie has developed bottles and nipples that retain a baby’s instinctive knowledge of how to breastfeed. Hear how Minbies’ advanced and patented technology is protecting the mother-baby breastfeeding bond from nipple confusion.
“Love this bottle and the teat! Love how it looks and how amazing it works for my daughter! She never really had a problem taking a bottle, but what I found was she preferred the bottle over the beast and we experienced some nipple confusion :( but all is well now, thanks for Minbie! Highly recommended!” said Maria T
When a baby is fed with a Minbie bottle and nipple, Bub latches on in the same way he or she would latch to the breast and Bub has to work at the feed just like he or she does when breastfeeding. In short, Minbie allows babies to practice their instinctive breastfeeding motion and latch. This is far more natural for babies and thus prevents nipple confusion. Feedback from our many happy customers shows that parents appreciate this and are thrilled that their babies can continue to breastfeed at least as well as, or even better than, they did before commencing bottle feeding.
“I really wish these were around with my eldest. He received a mix of EBM and formula, he took every teat I offered, but he never attached to me. It’s possible Minbie could have helped there, given the wonderful, natural shape. I love the shape of the Minbie teats, that’s why I bought the feeding system. As I breastfeed nipple confusion was a concern of mine. His latch is great on these teats, a very natural breastfeeding latch, I’m so impressed by this.” Sarah-Jane
Courtney said: “Perfect, no more nipple confusions and she latches better too!”
Taw said: “Tried this in desperation as my bub required a formula top up and was getting terrible nipple confusion. The Minnie test was much better although it took bub a few goes to get the hang of drinking from it.”
Rachel Cross said: “Harper and her Minbie bottle. After 17 weeks and spending quite a lot of money we finally found a bottle. The minbie bottle, she absolutely loves it. She loves the softness and the shape of teat and she latches a lot better on this bottle and not only that her breastfeeding latch is a lot better. It's made the transition to preschool a lot smoother . A happy baby is a happy mummy.”
Premature babies and twins (and triplets etc.) are usually smaller at birth than full-term singletons so their parents may be concerned about them losing weight just after birth. Minbie bottles and nipples enable parents to give smaller babies extra feeds in order to minimise weight loss without having to worry about nipple confusion. Kelly found that Minbie was useful for exactly that reason and said:
“I have just had twins they are quite small so for the first few days I wanted to offer breast first and give a formula top up so they weren't losing too much weight, your bottles have been wonderful they are switching between the two with ease and now my milk is fully in I can offer mostly breast 👍 brilliant product! Feeding so well definitely no nipple confusion here x” Kelly Grogan
Unfortunately, some babies may struggle to breastfeed initially, especially if they’re premature. Minbie bottles and nipples can allow parents to feed such babies in the first few weeks and months of life in a way that supports the instinctive breastfeeding latch and motion so that they can still breastfeed when they are big enough. Annabelle was very pleased that Minbie helped her daughter in this way:
“The Minbie has been fabulous and she is now feeding on the breast after almost 12 weeks of not being able to suck. Thank you!!! I have told all the new mothers in my mother's group how great the Minbie is. Xx”
Many mothers who are capable of and choose to breastfeed their babies can’t necessarily be there to feed Bub all the time.
Our little miracle baby was born at 31 weeks and there were some scary moments throughout the past 8 weeks where we thought we might lose our little man. I am blessed to be able to fully breastfeed however my husband desperately wanted to help out and be involved as much as possible - the minbie teats allow us to do that! Jaxson feeds great from the bottle and then latches perfectly.” Hayley D.
The option of having someone else feed Bub occasionally with EMB, or even regularly, can really help breastfeeding moms but, of course, nipple confusion then becomes a concern - no mom wants to go away for the weekend only to find that their baby refuses the breast on her return. Tracey is one mom who wanted the peace of mind that came with knowing that her baby could be bottle fed in the event that she couldn’t be there for a breastfeed. She said:
“No nipple confusion, Love this (Minbie) product. Ordered the 1+ teat and bottle for my 5 week old who is Ebf (exclusively breastfed), tried it with her and she took it straight away, we now give her a bottle every few days just incase I have to go somewhere without her, we have no nipple confusion, Love this product, it has certainly made things a lot easier.”
Kirsten also told us that she really appreciated having Minbie there ‘just in case’.
Kirsten Louise Newton said: “My 7 week old, who is EBF, took to the minbie straight away last night with expressed milk. So happy. Ordered the minbie so we can avoid nipple confusion on the rare occasion that we use it. Thank you! 😀😁
The ability for others to feed babies using Minbie nipples also means that partners can bond with their babies through feeding. Aimee was particularly pleased that Minbie enabled her partner to be more involved in the care of their daughter. She said:
"Fantastic. I am breastfeeding my 5 week old but my partner felt a bit left out. I bought a minbie being sceptical that there may be nipple confusion. My little girl took it (EBM) no bother and has been a life saviour at bedtime."
For these reasons Minbie is, of course, also great for mothers returning to work. Few moms are able to exclusively direct-latch breastfeed their babies during work hours so the availability of a bottle feeding system that doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding may be the thing that enables them to continue breastfeeding upon their return to work. Belinda and Friedel both told us that this has been a great benefit of using Minbie bottles and nipples.
“Thank you Minbie - No more nipple confusion! I was returning to work and my exclusively breast fed 4month old was struggling going from bottle to the breast. She wouldn’t attach to the breast properly and fuss on the bottle. I was getting symptoms of mastitis (I had it half a dozen times with my first) and have been told I’m more susceptible to it. After switching to the Minbie teat my bub has no drama switching from breast to bottle, I have been able to return to work and haven’t had any mastitis symptoms ... Minbie you’re a life saver!!” Belinda A
“This bottle has saved us all a lot of stress and will allow me to go back to work without the worry that my baby won’t feed properly at Daycare. When my baby boy was born I was advised to wait until he was 6 weeks old before introducing a bottle to avoid ‘nipple confusion’. So as suggested, he was exclusively breast-fed until week 6 when I diligently attempted some bottle feeds with no success at all. Over the following weeks we attempted again and again, purchasing 5 different bottle/nipple types until at 4 months of age a friend recommended we try Minbie. It still took one or two tries for him to get the hang of it but we finally got there and did so without the crying and stress of the previous bottle types! It really has been a game-changer for us and means I might actually be able to catch a movie or get a haircut without my baby going hungry. I wish we had known about Minbie much sooner, and I will certainly be recommending it to other parents with fussy drinkers!” Friedel
This ability to have other people feed one’s baby is so valued by many mothers that it can be quite devastating when a baby just will not take a bottle. Thankfully babies are less likely to refuse Minbie nipples because they allow babies to feed with their instinctive breastfeeding technique. Many moms have told us that this has been the case for their babies.
“3m old EBF twins who wouldn’t take a bottle. I tried several types without success then saw the Minbie teat advertised. I initially tried the 3m+ and both twins tolerated the teat but didn’t seem to get much/any milk out. I suspect this was because they were used to a very forceful let down and practically free flow from the breast. On advice of customer services I tried the 6+ teat a week ago which for one is great and she happily takes it as long as she is sat in a bouncer where she wouldn’t usually expect a breast. My little boy will accept the teat in his mouth and is making improvements each day when I offer it but not yet drinking from it. However it has been the only teat he will tolerate in his mouth at all. I am hoping that by continuing to offer it daily he will get the idea. As an aside my little girl will not take formula or cold expressed milk at all but there has been no problems with nipple confusion. Very pleased with product.” Claire K.
Charnell White said: “My little man was so insistent on boobie feeding and at 4 months I just couldn't cope with 2 others under 4 running around so I tried about 4-5 different bottles and he wouldn't take them even with expressed milk...got my Minbie tried it with formula first he hated it....then tried with expressed milk and BAM straight away he took it. 😍 this process is so much easier without any nipple confusion! I LOVE my Minbie !!!! “
“My 5 month old son has refused the bottle for the last 3 months, I decided to try the minbie bottle as a last chance and this was the result, he drank 4oz without any fuss and fell fast asleep, he has fed from me since so no nipple confusion. I'm so glad I tried this!!!!"- Leigh Ann Piper
Choosing a bottle that supports breastfeeding is vital if you want to partially bottle feed your baby but you also need to protect your supply of breast milk in other ways, especially if you’re topping up with formula rather than EBM. Here are some things you can do in addition to choosing Minbie bottles and nipples:
- Eat a nutritious diet. Your body will do its best to provide nutritious breast milk for your baby even if it means depriving you of important nutrients. But a poor diet will wear you down and can eventually affect your milk supply. Do yourself and your baby a favour and give your body the nutrients it needs by eating a healthy diet.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is not your friend. Constant dehydration can lead to a reduced milk supply so make sure you drink regularly throughout the day. Breastfeeding moms usually need to drink about three litres of water a day (of course your requirements may be different depending on your climate and how much exercise you do etc.).
- Do some gentle exercise. Gentle exercise keeps you fit and healthy, which in turn protects your milk supply. Don’t go overboard though - if you do too much strenuous activity it can inhibit your milk production.
- Sleep when you can. Kids and sleep often don’t coexist peacefully but getting adequate sleep supports good milk production so do your best. Try to nap when your little one is napping and once your little one is asleep at night hop into bed yourself, even if it’s way before your normal bedtime.
- Accept and/or ask for help. Support from family and friends can make a big difference to everyday life with kids. Having someone, or a team of people, that can watch the kids while you nap, clean or cook can help ensure you don’t get run off your feet. Alternatively, get someone to help out with chores while you feed Bub so you can maintain your energy levels and protect your milk supply.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. When you have a young baby certain things sometimes have to take a backseat so that you can maintain the energy you need to maintain a healthy milk supply. Even if you have help, you might not be able to clean as often as you normally would, you might struggle to put the washing away before you have to wash the next load, or you might constantly have a pile of dirty dishes on the sink (or you might find that all of the above is true). That’s ok. It’s normal. If these things cause you excessive stress though, you might consider hiring someone to help out if your family budget allows. Alternatively, some families that have at least one parent at home at least some of the time will enrol their children in daycare (usually for a day or two per week) so that that parent can get the chores done. Do what works for your family.
- Talk to your doctor about whether taking a galactagogue might be right for you and your baby. If you’re worried that your milk supply is insufficient for your baby, your doctor might recommend you take a substance that may help to increase your supply. Such compounds are called galactagogues (or galactogogues).
Tell us your experience
Have you had a child that suffered from nipple confusion? Have you got an awesome Minbie experience you’d like to share? Or have you got a tip for protecting one’s milk supply? Help other parents who might be in the same situation by sharing your experience in the comments.