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Alternative Feeding Methods

Nursing Your BEST

For many reasons, not all infants begin drinking human milk directly at the breast.

There are many ways to feed your baby without having to introduce an artificial nipple to help protect your nursing relationship.

Spoon Feeding

Spoon feeding is ideal for small quantities of human milk, especially colostrum. Using a spoon allows baby to take in milk according to infant’s pace and need.

To spoon feed, get a clean spoon and either fill it halfway with pumped human milk, or express milk by hand directly onto the spoon.

Have infant sitting upright, head supported, and gently bring the spoon to infant’s lips. Allow your baby to lick the milk from the spoon like a cat. Do not pour milk into infant’s mouth.

Cup Feeding

For infants who may reject an artificial nipple, or who are struggling with latching to the breast, cup feeding can be ideal. It is less stressful for the infant, doesn’t cost much, and allows others to assist with feedings.

Fill the cup about halfway with human milk. Medicine cups work well for this method. Baby should be upright, and swaddling may be preferred to prevent spilling. Bring the cup to infant’s bottom lip, and tip the cup so the milk touches your baby’s lip. Do not pour milk into infant’s mouth. Baby should lap the milk like a cat. Feed infant when awake and alert.

Finger Feeding

Some infants who struggle with latching, or who need to develop stronger suck skills for effective transfer, may benefit from finger feeding. This is best introduced with a lactation support professional, preferably an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Lactation Aid

For infants that may struggle with transfer due to poor suckle, physiological challenges, or preterm birth, a lactation aid allows the infant to receive supplemental nutrition while keeping the nursing relationship and allowing your milk supply to be stimulated. Ideally, an infant will be supplemented with human milk from you.

Lactation aids are attached to the breast, and when the infant latches, the lactation aid is ready to provide supplement when it is appropriate. Introducing a lactation aid should be assisted by a lactation support professional, preferably an IBCLC.

Print a handout from Lactation Education Resources on Alternative Feeding Methods (Document needed)

Paced Bottle Feeding

Despite other alternatives, some infants may need to be introduced to paced bottle feeding due to preterm birth, or needing to learn coordination skills with feeding to improve their ability to nurse. For parents returning to work or school, paced bottle feeding is often chosen as the preferred feeding method (although cup feeding can also be a good option).

Infants who are being bottle fed should be positioned upright, with the bottle taken in by the infant after being offered by touching the artificial nipple to your baby’s top lip. A slow flow artificial nipple should be used to help with pacing, and it should have a wide base.

Breaks should be built in that are appropriate for infant skills and age. For example, a preterm newborn may need to take a break after five sucks, while a full-term infant may be able to suck ten times before needing to pause. By giving infants break times, they can decide if they still want to eat more, and it helps them learn self-regulation. It also allows them to feel more in control of their feeding and breathing patterns.

Print a handout from Lactation Education Resources on Paced Bottle Feeding (Document Needed)