Cup Feeding: An Alternative to the Bottle

“My baby won’t take a bottle!” How many of us have had this experience, where we prepare to return to work and our nursing babe just won’t accept an artificial nipple? It’s frustrating. It makes working feel impossible, with preoccupied thoughts of a starving infant at home. coffee cup

Thankfully, there are alternative feeding methods that can help deliver nutrients to baby when mom is away. One of these methods is cup feeding. Did you know even tiny infants can drink from an open cup with the help of a caregiver?

Now, we aren’t talking about a coffee mug here. The best cups for a young baby are small with rounded edges, like a shot glass or even a disposable condiment cup. Slow pacing with lots of pauses can help baby to drink milk using this tool!

To get started: 

  • Fill the cup about halfway or less, with about 1/2 oz of milk
  • Tuck a cloth under the baby’s chin to catch any spills
  • Hold the baby in a semi-sitting position
  • Bring the cup to baby’s lips and rest the rim of the cup of baby’s lower lip so that it touches the corners of baby’s mouth
  • Tip the cup until the milk touches baby’s lips

Pros to this method:

  • Cup feeding is relatively easy for adults and babies to learn, and can be mastered in as few as 5 attempts
  • The cup provides sensory stimulus to the baby’s lips, sense of smell, and tongue
  • When babies lap the milk, this promotes appropriate tongue movement also used during breastfeeding
  • Baby can pace his intake (babies often hold the milk in their mouth for awhile before swallowing with cup feeding)

Drawbacks to this method:

  • Obviously, this will be time consuming
  • Baby can aspirate if the grownup pours milk into baby’s mouth
  • Baby does not get any practice sucking
  • Greater risk for spilling the liquid gold that mama pumped!

If your baby is resisting bottles, try talking to your lactation consultant about cup feeding. This article from La Leche League International shares mothers’ experiences using cups to feed their babies.

Did you try cup feeding? Leave us a comment to share your story!

*All information in this post is parsed from chapter 21 of the textbook Counseling the Nursing Mother by Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher.

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