Alternative Feeding Methods

Breastfeeding Alternatives

Mothers might be looking for alternative feeding methods that can prevent their babies from experiencing the negative effects of using artificial nipples.

Bottles can sometimes cause nipple preference in babies, which may result in breast refusal.

Here are a few breastfeeding recommendations, about alternative feeding methods...

 Difficulty Latching on.

  • First try proper positioning and latching on technique.
  • If this fails, a syringe can be used to entice baby to latch on.
  • Finger feeding can be used.
  • Cup feeding can also be used.

Flat or Inverted Nipples.

Ill Mother or Periods Away from Mother.

  • Cup feeding baby.

Cleft lip or palate

  • Cup feeding.

Breast Refusal, Nipple Confusion.

  • First try proper positioning and latching on.
  • Cup or spoon. 
  • Try dribbling milk over the nipple to entice baby.
  • Finger feeding can also be used.

Overactive let down

Neurological problems or preemies.

  • Cup feeding or
  • Finger feeding.
  • Lactation aid "SNS".

Adopted baby “induced lactation"

  • Lactation aid.

Cup Feeding

Cup feeding is used mostly in premature infants, and infants with cleft lip or palates, until they are strong enough to start breastfeeding on their own.

Cup feeding can only be used on babies that are past 32 weeks, as they have not yet developed their suck, swallow and breathing reflexes; as a result, babies born before 32 weeks are fed through a gavage tube. 

Watch the cup feeding video demonstration. Cup feeding an infant; done by a lactation consultant.

Advantages of Cup Feeding a Baby

  • Less regurgitation.
  • Less colic symptoms.
  • Better weight gain is noticed when using infant cup feeding.
  • It is an easily learnt skill for an infant.
  • It provides more appropriate movement of mouth and jaw, when compared to bottle feeding.
  • It is less time-consuming.
  • It provides a way to feed a baby, that does not include an artificial nipple, which can cause breastfeeding problems later on. 
  • It can be used as one of the best alternative feeding methods, for when the mother is not available to breastfeed.
  • It decreases the need for a gavage tube after 32 weeks.
  • It provides a baby with more social stimulation, when compared to bottle feeding.
  • It is less stressful for the baby, as he/she will only need to deal with milk in their mouth, instead of a nipple as well.
  • Cup feeding can be done by the whole family.
  • Baby feeding cups are inexpensive and easy to use.

Disadvantages of Cup Feeding Babies

  • It's one of those alternative feeding methods, that can get really messy.
  • A cup feeding newborn might learn to prefer the cup over breastfeeding.
  • It does not cater for the baby’s need to suck.
  • The danger of aspirating milk; the milk could go down the wrong way, into the lungs. This is why you need to be alert while doing this, as not to pour the milk down Baby’s throat. You must allow Baby to lap up the milk by him/herself. 

How to Cup Feed Baby

  • You can use a medicine cup, but you can buy special baby feeding cups.
  • Swaddle baby, so that cup is not knocked over.
  • Baby should be in an upright position.
  • Fill the cup half full with breast milk.
  • Rest the brim of the cup on Baby’s lower lip.
  • Tip the cup so that the milk only touches Baby’s lips.
  • Do not pour the milk into Baby’s mouth.
  • Baby should lap or sip at the milk.
  • Stop to burp baby every few minutes.
  • Try to cup feed your baby when he/she is alert.

Finger Feeding

Finger feeding is a breastfeeding alternative, used for babies that refuse the breast or refuse to latch on. Finger feeding is used to train a baby to suck.

How to Finger Feed

  • Wash your hands.
  • Your baby’s head needs to be supported, and he/she should be facing you.
  • You will need a lactation aid, which is a feeding tube that is attached to a feeding bottle. 
  • Using your finger you can start to gently tickle your baby’s lips, so that he/she can start to suck on your finger.
  • Your finger should be placed, with the soft part on your baby’s palate.
  • If your baby does not suck, you might need to lift the feeding bottle, to allow the breast milk to run down the tube.
  • Remember that a finger feeding infant, should not be finger fed to satisfy hunger, but should be used as a way for a baby to learn to suck.

Using a Lactation Aid

Supplementing while Breastfeeding

Lactation aids are used to supplement babies whilst they are at the breast. This is done with a tube and bottle that is filled with the mother's breast milk.

The tube is inserted into the baby’s mouth, accompanied by the mother's nipple. The sucking helps to stimulate the mother's milk supply.

This device is often used by mothers who have adopted a baby, or who are trying to re-establish milk supply, sometimes due to prematurity.

These mothers will most likely be breastfeeding and pumping in between feedings, to get their breast milk supplies up.

How to Use a Lactation Aid

  • Your baby should be latched onto the breast first, and then the tube can be slipped into his/her mouth. This can be done after your baby has nursed on both breasts, without the SNS.
  • Proper latching on, will enable your baby to use the lactation aid more effectively.
  • The tube of the SNS, can be taped to a mother's breasts, to make it easier for her to use.
  • Mom might need to hold the tube in place while breastfeeding. The tube should be placed in the corner of the baby’s mouth.
  • A baby should not take longer than 20 minutes to finish 30ml, as this could indicate that he/she is not properly latched on.

Advantages of Lactation Aids

  • Babies are kept on the breast.
  • Mothers learn to breastfeed, even if they are mostly supplementing with formula in the beginning.
  • Baby is less likely to reject the breast, than if he/she was supplemented with a bottle or cup.
  • A mother can breastfeed and formula feed her baby at the same time, without using a bottle. So therefore it is time saving and no artificial nipples are used. 
  • Mom's breasts are stimulated to increase milk supply.

Other Alternative Feeding Methods

  • Spoon feeding – Allows the baby to take the milk at his/her own pace. 
  • Syringe feeding – Dropping milk into a baby’s mouth, while holding him/her  upright. This can also be used while breastfeeding; place the syringe in the corner of the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding, this will encourage Baby to suck. (Should be done with a lactation consultant the first few times)
  • A special bottle, called a breastfeeding bottle, or otherwise known as a Haberman Feeder can be used for infants with oral or facial abnormalities, and also for infants who have a delayed suck reflex.
  • As a last resort, Mom might decide to pump exclusively.

Other pages on breastfeeding problems, in connection with alternative feeding methods.

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