What is alternative cup feeding and is it safe for newborns?

What is alternative cup feeding and is it safe for newborns?

The feeding method is often recommended for low-birth weight babies or those with difficulty latching onto the breast or bottle.

When it comes to nursing babies, we’re familiar with breastfeeding and bottle feeding. But have you ever heard of alternative cup feeding? 

In a Facebook video, which is currently going viral, a mum feeds her baby milk through an adorably tiny cup. The clip has been viewed over 23 million times since it was shared to the Breastfeeding Mama Talk Facebook page

This method of feeding is a great option for mums whose newborns find it difficult to latch onto the breast or bottle. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that cup or syringe feeding are excellent alternatives for low birth weight babies — or those weighing less than 2.5kg — who are unable to breastfeed. Not only will this help them get sufficient nutrition, it can help protect them from “growth retardation, infectious disease, developmental delays and even death.”

Alternative cup feeding: Is it safe for newborns?

Though most of the comments were positive, some parents were concerned that feeding babies through a cup would cause them to swallow too much air. 

Alternative cup feeding must be done right and, of course, upon the advise of a doctor. Yes, it is safe, but it’s important to consult your baby’s paediatrician first.

Exclusive breastfeeding is still best for babies until the age of six months, says the WHO, though these options don’t negate the importance of breastfeeding. It’s a great option for mums who can’t nurse their little ones through the breast or bottle. 

alternative cup feeding

Alternative cup feeding is a safe alternative for newborns with difficulty latching. But you should still consult your doctor before choosing this method.

According to the NHS, a feeding cup is often recommended when babies need to feed more than three to five millilitres.

Nursing through a cup helps “protect breastfeeding,” because the practise encourages feeding similar to breastfeeding — using the tongue and lower jaw, in particular. 

How is alternative cup feeding done?

  • First, you should make sure your hands are clean. Wash and dry them thoroughly.
  • Use only pre-sterilised, one-time use cups for each feeding. 
  • Secure your baby in a comfortable blanket so that they don’t flail about and spill the milk while feeding.
  • Place a bib around your baby’s neck.
  • Make sure to feed in an upright position to keep them from choking!
  • Rest the cup gently on your baby’s lower lip.
  • Tip the cup slightly, making sure the milk reaches your baby’s lower lip. 
  • Allow them to lap the milk up with their tongue on their own and at their own pace. 
  • Follow their lead. They might stop for a bit to take a break and once they’re full, they can close their mouths or move away from the cup. 

Another method usually done during the first few days of life is syringe feeding.

  • Like cup feeding, make sure your hands and tools are clean.
  • Hold your baby upright while squeezing no more than 0.2 millilitres of milk at a time.
  • Do this in between their cheeks and gums or directly on their tongue.
  • Make sure they swallow before you syringe more milk. 

If you’re a mum-to-be, make sure to ask your gynaecologist about these feeding options in order to best prepare to give your little one the best nourishment possible.


Sources: World Health Organisation (WHO), NHS UK

READ THIS ALSO: Everything you should know about breastfeeding a premature baby

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Written by

Bianchi Mendoza

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