Alternative Breastfeeding Methods - Preventing Breastfeeding Issues

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

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Baby yawning.

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

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

Which Alternative Feeding Methods to Use

Difficulty Latching on.

Breast Refusal, Nipple Confusion.

Overactive letdown

  • 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.

  • First, try proper positioning and latching on.

  • Cup or spoon. 

  • Try dribbling milk over the nipple to entice the baby.

  • Finger feeding can also be used.

Flat or Inverted Nipples.

Neurological problems or preemies.

Ill Mother or Periods Away from Mother.

  • Cup-feeding or

  • Finger feeding.

  • Lactation aid "SNS."

  • Cup-feeding baby.

Cleft Lip or Palate

Adopted Baby “Induced lactation”

  • Cup-feeding.

  • Lactation aid.

And accidental smile - caught!
Baby laughing - Photo by Filip Mroz / Unsplash


Cup-feeding is used mainly in premature infants and infants with cleft lips or palates until they are strong enough to start breastfeeding independently.

Cup-feeding can only be used on babies 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.

Advantages of Cup-Feeding, a Baby

  • Less regurgitation.
  • Fewer colic symptoms.
  • Better weight gain is noticed when using infant cup-feeding.
  • It is an easily learned skill for an infant.
  • It provides more appropriate movement of the 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 when the mother cannot 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 they will only need to deal with milk in their mouth instead of a nipple as well.
  • The whole family can do cup-feeding.
  • 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 messy.
  • A cup-feeding newborn might learn to prefer the cup over breastfeeding.
  • It does not cater to the baby’s need to suck.
  • There is 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 so as not to pour the milk down the baby’s throat. You must allow your baby to lap up the milk by themself.

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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.
  • The 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 the baby’s mouth.
  • Baby should lap or sip at the milk.
  • Stop to burp your baby every few minutes.
  • Try to cup-feed your baby when they are 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 they should face you.
  • You will need a lactation aid - a feeding tube attached to a feeding bottle.
  • Using your finger, you can gently tickle your baby’s lips so they 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 supplement babies while they are at the breast; this is done with a tube and bottle 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.

The SNS 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 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 their 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 they are 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 supplemented with a bottle or cup.
  • A mother can breastfeed and formula-feed her baby simultaneously 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.
Babyboy sleeping
Baby sleeping - Photo by Peter Oslanec / Unsplash

Other Alternative Feeding Methods

  • Spoon feeding allows the baby to take the milk at their own pace.
  • Syringe feeding – Dropping milk into a baby’s mouth while holding them upright. This can also be used while breastfeeding; place the syringe in the corner of the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding, encouraging the baby to suck. (Should be done with a lactation consultant the first few times)
  • A special bottle called a breastfeeding bottle, 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.