Finger Feeding

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Finger feeding is another alternative feeding method that allows the mother and partner a way of feeding their baby, that reduces the occurrence of nipple confusion.

Finger feeding is very similar to breastfeeding and is sometimes used for a few minutes before breastfeeding, to prepare the baby to take the breast. The sucking needed is very similar to that needed whilst breastfeeding.

If mom can, she should try using the lactation aid while breastfeeding so that her breasts are stimulated while baby is receiving the milk. This will help increase milk supply. Watch the video on how to use a lact aid at the breast.

Reasons for Finger Feeding a Baby

How to Finger Feed

  • Get your lactation aid ready. (lactation aid tube attached to a bottle) Get your pumped milk or formula (depending on your personal circumstances). Read more about breastfeeding with a lactation aid here. 
  • Wash your hands and get comfortable.
  • Sometimes it's best to use two fingers, the larger the finger the better, as this will teach the baby to open his/her mouth wider, which will come in handy while breastfeeding.
  • You can tape the feeding tube to your finger, to whichever finger is the most comfortable, so that the end of the tube is in line with the end of your finger and not longer.
  • Gently put the soft part of your finger against your baby’s palate, with the tube into your baby’s mouth. If your baby is asleep, he will usually start to suck. As soon as the liquid enters his mouth, he should wake up.
  • A baby will usually suck the finger in quite far, this is normal. Try to keep your finger as flat as possible on your baby’s tongue. You can pull your baby’s chin down, if his lower lip is sucked in.
  • Try to keep the bottle above your baby’s head, making sure that the milk flows freely down the tube. Some mothers tuck the bottle under their arm pits, for free hands while holding their babies.
  • The higher you hold the bottle, the faster the flow will be. So when your baby starts to drink slower, you can lift the bottle, but not too much, as you don’t want your baby to start choking on the milk.
  • After feeding your baby, make sure you clean the tube and bottle well. You can rinse it with vinegar to make sure that it's clean and disinfected.

Advantages of Finger Feeding

  • Your finger is natural and tastes like you, which is comforting to a baby.
  • Your baby still benefits from sucking and jaw movement.
  • Sleepy babies have been found to drink more using this method.


  • Your baby may prefer the finger over the mother's nipple, especially if the mother has inverted or flat nipples.
  • The baby may become accustomed to opening his/her mouth very little,  where as with breastfeeding, the baby needs to open the mouth quite wide. This can ultimately result in a bad latch.
  • Parents may find it a little complicated and leave breastfeeding completely.
  • A Finger feeding newborn sometimes takes very long to feed. Cup feeding is sometimes preferred, if tube feeding takes too long.

paced bottle feeding

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" in connection with this page on finger feeding

- Alternative feeding methods

- Suck problems

- Cup feeding

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