2023 Newborn Feeding Guide: How to prevent nipple confusion from bottle feeding

2023 Newborn Feeding Guide: How to prevent nipple confusion from bottle feeding

Feeding a newborn is an important and sometimes challenging task for new parents. While breastfeeding is the recommended feeding method, some mothers may supplement with bottle feeding or switch to formula feeding entirely. However, introducing a bottle to a newborn can sometimes lead to nipple confusion, making breastfeeding more difficult. This article will discuss how to prevent nipple confusion from bottle feeding and provide a newborn feeding guide for new parents.

A mother is bottle-feeding her baby

What is Nipple Confusion?

Nipple confusion occurs when a newborn has difficulty switching between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. This can happen when the baby becomes used to the fast flow of milk from a bottle and struggles to latch onto the breast, which requires more effort and time to extract milk. Additionally, bottle nipples can be different in shape and texture than the mother's nipple, confusing the baby and making it harder to breastfeed.

Read also: Should i clean my newborn baby's tongue?

Signs of nipple confusion

The phrase "nipple confusion" refers to a phenomenon in which a baby has trouble switching between bottle feeding and breastfeeding. The term refers to a baby's inability to differentiate between the two types of nipples, which can lead to confusion, frustration, and difficulties in feeding. Parents and Carers must identify the signs of nipple confusion to take proper action to address the issue and ensure that their baby receives the nutrition they require.

  • One of the most common signs of nipple confusion is that a baby may refuse to breastfeed after being given a bottle. This can be a frustrating experience for both the baby and the mother, as the baby may become upset and hungry, and the mother may feel unable to provide for her child. In addition to refusing to breastfeed, babies experiencing nipple confusion may have difficulty latching onto the breast or a shallow latch, which can cause discomfort for the mother and make it difficult for the baby to get the milk they need.
  • Another sign of nipple confusion is that a baby may start to prefer the artificial nipple of a bottle over the natural nipple of the breast. This can be a problem because bottle feeding can be less efficient than breastfeeding, which means the baby may not get enough milk to grow and thrive. Additionally, bottle feeding can lead to other issues, such as overfeeding, which can cause digestive problems and lead to obesity later in life.
  • Other signs of nipple confusion may include fussiness, colic, and general irritability during and after feedings. The frustration and discomfort can cause these symptoms that the baby is experiencing as they try to switch between bottle feeding and breastfeeding.
  • If a baby is experiencing nipple confusion, there are steps that parents and caregivers can take to help. One approach is to limit the use of bottles and pacifiers in the early weeks of the baby's life, as this can reduce the likelihood of nipple confusion. Additionally, parents can try different breastfeeding positions and techniques to help the baby latch onto the breast more effectively. In some cases, a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding specialist may be able to provide additional support and guidance.
A mother is breast-feeding her baby

Preventing Nipple Confusion

Preventing nipple confusion requires a combination of techniques and strategies. Here are some tips to help prevent nipple confusion when introducing a bottle to a newborn:

Wait until breastfeeding is well-established: It is recommended to wait until breastfeeding is well-established, usually around 4-6 weeks, before introducing a bottle to a newborn. This allows the baby to become more familiar with breastfeeding and reduces the risk of nipple confusion.

Choose the right bottle and nipple: When choosing a bottle and nipple, look for ones that mimic the shape and texture of the mother's nipple. Additionally, choose a slow-flow nipple that allows the baby to control the flow of milk and prevents overfeeding.

Practice pace feeding: Pace feeding is a technique that mimics the flow of breast milk and prevents overfeeding. To pace feed, hold the bottle horizontally and tilt it slightly downward. Allow the baby to suck and swallow at their own pace, and take breaks every few minutes to allow the baby to rest.

Limit bottle use: Limiting bottle use can help prevent nipple confusion and encourage breastfeeding. It is recommended to only use a bottle when necessary, such as when the mother is away or unable to breastfeed.

Positioning: Proper positioning during bottle feeding can help prevent nipple confusion and encourage the baby to latch onto the breast. Hold the baby comfortably and ensure the bottle nipple is at the same level as the mother's nipple.

Pumping: If the mother needs to pump, it is recommended to pump after feeding or at least an hour before the next feeding. This allows the breasts to fully refill and ensures the baby gets enough milk.

Cleaning: Always clean bottles, nipples, and breast pump parts thoroughly after each use to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Read also: How long is warmed breast milk good for?

A mother is bottle-feeding her baby

Newborn Feeding Guide

In addition to preventing nipple confusion, following a newborn feeding guide can help ensure the baby gets the right amount of nutrients and grows properly. Here are some general guidelines for feeding a newborn:

Frequency: Newborns feed every 2-3 hours or 8-12 times daily. However, every baby is different; some may need to feed more or less frequently.

Signs of hunger: Look for signs of hunger, such as rooting, sucking, and putting their hands to their mouth. Crying is a late sign of hunger and should be avoided if possible.

Milk production: Milk production is based on demand, so it is important to feed the baby frequently to maintain the milk supply. Additionally, stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet to support milk production.

Burping: After feeding, burp the baby to release any trapped air and prevent discomfort.

Positions: Try different feeding positions to find the best one for the baby. Some common positions include the cradle hold, football hold, and cross-cradle hold.

Sleeping: Newborns may fall asleep during feedings, but waking them up is important as ensuring they are fully fed. Additionally, it is recommended to avoid putting the baby to bed with a bottle as this can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Formula feeding: If formula feeding, follow the instructions on the formula package for mixing and preparation. It is important to use the correct formula ratio to water and clean bottles and nipples thoroughly after each use.


Feeding a newborn can be a challenging but rewarding experience. While nipple confusion from bottle feeding can make breastfeeding more difficult, there are steps parents can take to prevent it. Waiting until breastfeeding is well-established, choosing the right bottle and nipple, practicing pace feeding, limiting bottle use, proper positioning, pumping, and cleaning can all help prevent nipple confusion. Additionally, following a newborn feeding guide can help ensure the baby gets the right amount of nutrients and grows properly. By following these tips and guidelines, new parents can feel confident and successful in feeding their newborn.


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