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Cup & Syringe Feeding

In the early stages of establishing breastfeeding – if a mother wishes to breastfeed but for clinical concerns the baby needs to be fed more than she can supply then there are the Syringe and Cup feeding methods that are recommended that will reduce any impact on the success of future breastfeeding preventing the issue of nipple/teat confusion of using a bottle.  The World Health Organisation recommends these forms of feeding as a supplement to a breastfeed baby.  UNICEF stated in 2020 that they help to ensure there is no interference with the newborns innate reflex to suckle with a soft nipple at the back of the mouth rather than a hard teat from a bottle on the hard palate.

Your Paediatrician, Midwife or Lactation Consultant can advise on whether this supplemental feeding is needed and the best option for your Baby.

Expressed Breast Milk should always be used when possible.

Syringe Feeding can be used in the first few days to first week when only small amounts are needed ie. colostrum <5ml

Cup Feeding which can be used when they are taking in larger amounts of Expressed milk > than 34 weeks in age – the infant is only required to lap the milk coordinating their swallowing and breathing so they can pace their feed which improves oxygen saturations and minimises energy expenditure.

Important to Note these Feedings are only meant to be Short Term if required clinically – the aim is to fully establish Breastfeeding to meet their needs.  

How To Syringe Feed

There is a risk of choking or aspiration if not done correctly.

    1. Wash and dry hands thoroughly
    2. Use a 1 ml pre-sterilised syringe at each feed
    3. Swaddle your baby or wrap their arms in a blanket to help keep their hands out of the way.
    4. Hold your baby slightly upright and ensure they are fully awake and alert
    5. Gently and slowly syringe a small amount of the milk into the side of their mouth between their gums and cheek
    6. Watch them swallow before syringing a little more aiming to finish the syringe of milk
    7. Wind your baby after they have finished the feed

See video below by Helen Nash (Midwife & Doula, Lovebirth) with an example of Syringe Feeding a newborn baby.

How To Cup Feed

There is a risk of choking or aspiration if not done correctly.

    1. Wash and dry hands thoroughly
    2. Swaddle your baby to keep hands out of their way and prevent spills
    3. Ensure your baby is fully awake and alert
    4. Make sure have a sterilised cup and have if possible half full
    5. Tip the cup to just touch your baby’s lip so making sure not to pour milk into their mouth
    6. The rim of the cup should be rested on the lower lip.  Your baby will lap the milk from the cup using its tongue – the cup should be left in this position during the feed including when they stop drinking
    7. It is important to allow them to take as much as they want in their own time
    8. If your baby needs winding during the feed this can be done when necessary

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