A friend of mine was on social media recently posting pictures of her sister, father, and husband excitedly nursing her newborn baby. I looked at the photos and thought, “yeah, good for you” in a totally childish taunting voice.
When she got home from the hospital we talked on the phone and I asked, “how’s breastfeeding going?” I was waiting for her to say, “it’s not. I can’t produce. The baby won’t latch. I’m having a terrible time. I’m not producing enough milk.”
“It’s going great! Baby latched and she’s gaining weight right on track.”
My jaw dropped lower than my sagging, lactating boobs. “You what?!”
“My doctor said I’m welcome to pump as long as breastfeeding is going well and it’s important to me that my husband gets time to bond with the baby.”
My jealousy was brimming and I asked stupidly, “aren’t you worried about nipple confusion?”
What Is Nipple Confusion…
A nurse who took care of my family when we had our son told me something that impacted my life and the life of my husband for over a year to come.
“Don’t pump milk for 30 days until you establish your milk supply.”
Although I’m not usually such a rule-follower, I dutifully waited until exactly 30 days after my son was born to pump milk. I didn’t want to compromise my milk supply, after all!
During that time, my husband didn’t bond with our son. In fact, he didn’t bond with our son until the baby was over a year old. There’s no point in me trying to act like we had this perfect, happy little triad. We didn’t. It was my son and I with my husband on the outskirts, despite all my best efforts.
Did I cause this because I didn’t let him give the baby bottles for 30 days? Was I the cause of this lack of a relationship in my husband with our baby? Did I isolate my husband from our lives by listening to our doctor and avoiding pacifiers and bottles?
The answer is a definite maybe…
What’s So Confusing About Nipples?
My husband still teases me about “nipple confusion”. “I know somebody who died from nipple confusion.” He taunts.
Nipple confusion is when a baby has difficulty latching or breastfeeding due to the introduction of bottles, pacifiers, or other pacifying objects. When the baby doesn’t take to nursing, both the baby and the mother get frustrated. Often, this leads to the termination of the breastfeeding relationship.
I knew about nipple confusion from one of the many horrifying books I read during my pregnancy and wasn’t about to go there. Compromising a breastfeeding relationship so that dad or grandma can take care of a feeding or two would pretty much suck. No pun intended.
Are You At Risk For Nipple Confusion?
Were my baby and I at risk of having nipple confusion?
Of course. Because this isn’t a science, nipple confusion could happen to any baby who doesn’t have a strong breastfeeding relationship.
But there’s really no determining which babies will have nipple confusion and which ones won’t. The IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) recommends waiting until breastfeeding is established before introducing bottles.
To make it easy, doctors and lactation consultants estimate mommies wait thirty days.
How Does Nipple Confusion Happen?
Bottles and nipples are different, no matter what a company tries to market about their great synthetic “mama-like” bottle nipples. Although you’d think a baby would categorically prefer a breast, don’t be surprised if a breastfed baby prefers a bottle to a breast. After all, some bottles express milk much faster than mama’s nipples. Plus, some parents put a nipple on their bottles that’s meant for an older child, allowing the baby to gulp milk at a rapid pace. Yikes!
What’s more, breastfeeding is a learned activity for both mother and baby. That’s the primary reason so many women stay in the hospital for several days after giving birth; to learn to breastfeed. Everywhere you look there are lactation consultants and breastfeeding groups because for many, many mothers… it’s hard!
Nipple confusion happens because breastfeeding isn’t easy to figure out. Many mothers who’ve been feeding their children for months or years will tell you it’s easy… but almost any new mother on the planet who’s trying to get her infant to latch will look at you with wide eyes and a shaky voice and say, “wow, I didn’t think it’d be this hard.” You can’t force a baby to nurse. It’s something you both learn.
What’s The Differences Between Nipples On Bottles Vs. Breasts?
Bottle-feeding is entirely different from breastfeeding. To feed from the breast, babies use specific tongue and jaw movements. They latch like hoover vacuums, or at least need to open real wide to get the entire nipple and areola in their mouths. This allows the baby to most efficiently compress the milk sinuses underneath the areola.
When my milk first came in while I was in the hospital, I squeezed my nipple and was shocked that nothing came out.
“Nurse!” I was horrified. My baby might starve to death. Will he die of thirst?!
My lactation consultant then explained to me that the baby was find and my milk was coming in fine. I was just squeezing the wrong piece of anatomy. Huh? Well that’s because the baby doesn’t suck the nipple. (Whew! Because that would really have hurt!) When a baby breastfeeds, the nipple is far back in the baby’s mouth. Milk is drawn out from the breast by squeezing the areola, not the nipple.
Milk flows from a bottle much more easily because the baby doesn’t have to worry about stuffing an areola into his mouth. As long as you’re not nursing from a space station, milk flows with nothing more than gravity.
When you rely solely on a bottle after birth, the baby doesn’t have to learn to open his mouth widely to drink. He may not learn to form a seal with his lips and he doesn’t have the strength or coordination to keep milk from flowing in between sips. Plus the entire bottle thing makes the baby inherently lazy. But it isn’t lazy – he wants his food to be as easy as you and I do. If you have the chance to make stovetop popcorn in 7 minutes with constant attention and shaking the pan versus if you have the chance to throw your kernels in a nifty popper and walk away – which do you choose?
Why Was I So Scared of Nipple Confusion?
I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I knew I didn’t want to wash a bottle for the life of me. I especially knew that I wanted to leave the house with nothing but a diaper and some wipes and hike all around Colorado or wherever my son and I were traveling during his first year.
Breastfeeding is the tits. Pun intended.
It’s the most amazing thing in the world for a mom on-the-go.
Stop, Drop, and Nurse.
On a plane? Bust out your breast.
In a fancy restaurant? Pull down your collar and let Baby enjoy the meal vicariously through you, too.
No bottles, no hot water, no dishes, no sanitizing, and no formula required.
Child getting fussy in the middle of a much-needed warm bath? Here little teapot, have a sip and simmer down.
Side Note For Non-Breastfeeding Mommies
I feel for every mother who can’t breastfeed or chooses not to. I’m so sorry for those of you who tried but couldn’t – I send you all the love right now. For the sake of this article, I even considered hiding my elation about the convenience of breastfeeding. But that’s not practical and it would be totally disingenuous.
If it makes you feel any better, I’ve voluntarily donated dozens and dozens of gallons of my own liquid gold to mothers in need. There. Now don’t be mad at me for the convenience of my nursing because I’ve certainly spent my many inconvenient hours pumping, washing, sanitizing, and storing breastmilk for other mommies. It was the least I could do because we’re all in this together. XOXO
— end side note —
Should I Have Just Pumped & Let Daddy Give Baby A Bottle?
After reading hundreds of testimonials of women who’ve lost their ability to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with their son or daughter, I’m happy I waited 30 days to introduce a bottle.
With my second child, I’ll probably introduce it sooner by a week or two, but only if the breastfeeding relationship is going well… and if I am emotionally strong enough to take the bottle away in case I need to so that the breastfeeding relationship stays strong.
Although I’m super happy for my friend and her family and all the fun they’re all having feeding the little one, I’m also really grateful I didn’t risk compromising my beloved breastfeeding relationship for something that wasn’t critical to my son’s life.
Yes, I said it. Bottle-feeding and bonding with daddy are mutually exclusive. There is no guarantee my husband would have bonded with my son if we bottle-fed him. And there’s also no reason why my husband needed to feed my baby in order to bond with him. There are scores of ways they could have bonded without boobies…
10 Ways Daddy Can Bond With Baby
- Be present at birth. Father’s go through hormonal changes alongside mommy when they participate in bringing their baby into the world.
- Skin-to-skin time. When daddies engage in skin-to-skin after birth, it helps reduce the amount babies cry and helps the baby learn to associate daddies arms and smell with comfort. Babies have superhuman smelling capabilities so avoid wearing cologne or strong-smelling deodorant so that the baby can really get to know you by your true smell. Best of all, skin-to-skin time fosters a time for you and the baby to listen to one another’s hearts beat. Anything you do to mimic a womb-like experience will be the baby’s favorite jam for his first three months of life, if not longer.
- 4 of the 5 S’s. This is a reference to the 5 S’s most mommies learn from The Happiest Baby on The Block. They’re traditionally Swaddle, Side or Stomach (in terms of position that can help calm a colicky baby), Shush, Swing, and Suck. The 4 S’s that Daddy can participate in are: swaddling, placing baby on the side or stomach, swinging or swaying, shushing, and even singing! Try combining S’s by shushing or singing to your baby who’s in the side or stomach position while rocking (swinging) in a rocking chair. Or if you’re a bodybuilder type daddy, do squats (like swinging or rocking) with a side or stomach positioned baby while shushing. See! There are countless variations.
- Be present. Snuggle, sing, speak, read, and let the baby know that you’re part of his life and you aren’t going anywhere.
- Don’t be jealous of mommy’s oxytocin boost. Did you know that snuggling with your infant increases dad’s oxytocin levels too?
- Give baby coconut oil massages. We took our son to a massage therapist at 5 weeks old who showed us how to massage his tummy to help with digestion and how to relieve sinus pressure. Massaging also helps with circulation and – best of all – helps daddy and baby bond.
- Give baby a bath. My son absolutely loved bath time and he would smile broadly every second he was in there.
- Play music. Studies suggest that music helps babies become smarter and helps their brains become more organized. While the debate still rages, it’s certainly worth a try and can be enjoyable for both baby and daddy.
- Become the world’s best diaper-changer or burper. Mom will really appreciate the helping hands, too!
- Summon your inner photographer. Babies love looking at faces and you can satisfy your urge to tinker with things by finally learning how to use your camera to snap shots of baby or mommy!
What Do I Do If My Baby Has Nipple Confusion?
So, I’ve pretty much sided with the nurse who told me to hold off on bottles and pacifiers. Now what would happen if my breastfed baby suffered from nipple confusion? How do you un-train a bottle-fed baby?
It’s weird to say, but humans don’t want to starve. Remember Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum said, “Life will find a way.” It’s true.
Babies who prefer a bottle will eventually have to learn to rely on breastfeeding. But if you’re putting your baby through this transition, be done with it. Don’t start with a bottle, take it away because of nipple confusion, and then reintroduce it. Either you and your baby jive with both, or you stick to one or the other. It’s not fair to cause junior unnecessary frustration. You think husbands get hangry? Try listening to a hangry baby.
To reignite your breastfeeding relationship with your son or daughter, try breastfeeding when the baby is calm. If he or she is having a hard time latching, it’s only going to be more frustrating, nay, it’ll be darn near impossible to succeed if you try to master a new skill under the diress of a baby’s crying. This may go without say but please don’t wait to try breastfeeding until your baby is ravenously hungry.
Keep your little one close. If your arms get tired of holding him or her, get a Nesting Days Swaddle or Moby Wrap and snuggle with that little bunny between feedings as much as you can. Skin-to-skin is breast. I loved to keep my son’s head right by my heart so that he had a more authentic womb-like experience between feedings.
Consult a lactation consultant if you’re having a problem with latching or sucking. Some consultants recommend that you use a pump or manually express milk before your baby gets to the breast so that he or she experiences the instant gratification of milk within just a few sucks.
And most importantly, whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, use pacifiers, dance by the moonlight in T-Rex costumes to calm your infant, or pump milk from your office because you’re a working mom: you’re AWESOME just the way you are. Anybody who tells you differently is just jealous.