I have never, in all my years of breastfeeding help, seen a case of nipple confusion. There, I said it. For many years I thought I saw it. I bought the whole concept that introduction of bottles too early would cause a baby to reject his mother’s breast. That somehow the baby would get “confused” and suddenly not know how to breastfeed.
So what made me change my tune? The babies themselves. They proved to me over and over again that the idea of nipple confusion is nonsense. They showed me that they are infant mammals and that mammals are hard-wired to do this thing we call breastfeeding. And they showed me that they are born to be adaptable and perfectly capable of adjusting to a wide variety of challenges that life doles out on a daily basis.
But, please… don’t listen to what I have to say about this. Listen to the babies. They taught me. Maybe they can teach you too!
Here are the stories of just a few of the many, many babies who teach me every day:
Case 1–Baby could not latch on to breast. Nipple shield was given to mom to help with latch and milk transfer. Baby used nipple shield for 4 months. By 5 months of age she had completely transitioned from the shield and was happily breastfeeding all by herself.
Case 2– Twins born prematurely. Neither could breastfeed at birth and needed a lot of help to suck at all. Eventually they learned to bottle feed well. Mom pumped for 3 months so these babies could have her milk. At 3 months, as mom was bathing with one of the babies, he rooted and latched and suckled. Encouraged, she tried to nurse the other twin and he did the same thing. They never looked back.
Case 3– Mom pumped and bottle fed for 3 months because baby was unable to breastfeed after birth. She was told the baby probably never would. She called me as a last resort. I showed her how to hold the baby and support her breast, and baby latched on and breastfed like she’d been doing it all along.
Case 4—Baby born tongue tied and unable to latch. The parents were referred to a Dr. who clipped the frenulum, but didn’t clip enough so the tongue was still restricted. By the time the mother had called me, her milk supply was severely compromised. She worked on her milk production, finally got her son’s tongue properly released and continued to pump and bottle feed. Another lactation consultant told her “your baby has learned to like the bottle better” and he would never breastfeed. The baby and mom had other ideas. At 11 weeks this baby was 100% breastfed.
Case 5–(My favorite). This baby girl had been born with a cleft palate so she was unable to breastfeed or even use a regular bottle. Mom pumped for 4 months until the palate was repaired, hoping to breastfeed after her baby had healed from surgery. But she wasn’t successful. Finally, she called me at 7 months. When baby was sleepy, mom was able to coax her baby to the breast using a nipple shield. She suckled a bit then came off. I suggested she keep trying—that she had proved to us she could do it. A few months later I received an email from an elated mom telling me her baby had figured it out and at long last really breastfeeding!
I have many more stories of mothers and babies who persisted and triumphed. What about you? Do you have a story to share? Feel free to let us know by commenting here!