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Breastfeeding Myths

Bottles Aren't All Bad

Myth #6: If a baby doesn't breastfeed well, giving a bottle will only make things worse.

Fact: There is some truth to this statement. Regularly giving a bottle to a breastfed newborn can interfere with the breastfeeding law of supply and demand. A mother's milk supply is dependent on her baby's active suckling; without it, she'll produce less milk. Because an artificial nipple can be grasped easily by an infant and milk flows readily from a bottle, a newborn may initially find it easier than nursing. This phenomenon, which can further undermine attempts at breastfeeding, has been dubbed "nipple confusion." While studies do confirm a link between the early use of artificial nipples by nursing infants and a shortened duration of breastfeeding, the widespread publicity about "nipple confusion" has led to exaggerated fears about giving even a single bottle to a breastfed newborn.

Troubled breastfeeding, however, calls for special measures. If a newborn loses too much weight, your doctor or lactation consultant may recommended supplemental milk by bottle to provide adequate nutrition and keep the baby healthy. At this point, it's essential to begin pumping after feedings to increase your supply. The supplemental milk can be either pumped breast milk or formula.

As the baby starts gaining weight and the mother's milk supply increases with the additional stimulation and drainage provided by the pump, the baby's efforts at direct breastfeeding will become more effective. Once breastfeeding is well-established, many babies can go back and forth between the breast and a bottle of expressed milk without any difficulties.