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Is Nipple Confusion a Myth?

With the exception of having to wear downright scary-looking nursing bras, I was thrilled that my experience breastfeeding my now 18-month-old daughter, Amelia, was a snap: She latched on easily an hour after birth, and my milk came in by the gallons about three days later.

Still, when I was ready for Amelia to try her first bottle at 2 1/2 weeks old, I was apprehensive  -- would giving her an artificial nipple cause her tiny head to spin and forget how to nurse? Would she become, to put it in lactation terms, "nipple confused"? In the months before birth, I'd been barraged with breastfeeding materials, and nipple confusion was one of those triple-starred subjects: Don't give your baby a bottle in the first two months, or she'll reject the breast.

As popular parenting advice dictates, I left the house while my mother gave Amelia her first bottle of pumped milk. Strolling around my neighborhood, I was frantic: What if she wouldn't take it? That would be awful, since I was craving a night out with my husband  -- not to mention, in a few months, I'd be going back to work. But what if she took it, then decided my breasts were less than adequate?

As I walked in the door, my mom reported Amelia emptied the bottle, no problem. "And it seems like she's still hungry," she said. So I put her on my breast and  -- what a smart, smart baby!  -- she nursed voraciously for another ten minutes. As she filled her belly, my head filled with all the luxuries I would be allowed, like a solo run to the grocery store, now that my intelligent infant could switch-hit between the bottle and my breast.

Dimity McDowell is a freelance writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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