Q: How early can babies go back and forth between the bottle and breast without getting nipple confusion? My husband wants to feel involved and feed our newborn as soon as possible.
A: Nipple confusion can be a problem for many breastfed babies if they are given a bottle too early, even if it's filled with breast milk. Here's why: Infants coordinate their jaw, cheek and swallowing muscles in a specific way when they are breastfeeding. With a bottle, their feeding patterns are completely different--a bottle, for instance, gushes milk into a baby's mouth, and the child needs to move his tongue to control the flow. Not so with the breast.
If you continue to offer a bottle, your baby may become a victim of instant gratification and get frustrated by the slower flow from the breast, perhaps even rejecting breastfeeding altogether. Wait on the bottle until the baby's about 4 weeks old. While your husband should be commended for his good intentions, the better way for him to stay involved is by changing the baby's diapers, making meals and phone calls, doing laundry, etc. Giving you emotional and physical support is far more important than feeding the baby.