The best way for our babies to drink breast milk is through our breasts, but sometimes, for example, when you have to go back to work, we can’t be by their side. Different methods of feeding or supplementing will allow you to continue to give them your breastmilk.
When thinking of ways to feed your baby expressed breastmilk or formula, the first thing you might think of is a bottle.
But in reality, the bottle is a method of feeding or supplementation not recommended by either the WHO or UNICEF because of the risks of bacterial contamination that it entails. So you should know that there are many methods of supplementing that depend on your personal circumstances, and you can use one or the other, or even several at the same time!
Here we explain all of them; according to the age of your baby and your needs, choose the one you think is appropriate:
The baby needs to be seated or slightly inclined. After washing your hands carefully and trimming the fingernail as short as possible to avoid hurting the baby, carefully insert your pinky finger into the baby’s mouth. The palm of your hand should be facing upwards, and the fingertip will stimulate the baby’s palate, which makes the baby suck. The syringe needs to be placed at the corner of the baby’s lips and provides the milk. When the baby sucks, the syringe is squeezed, and milk is given. When the baby stops, also stop the milk flow until the baby sucks again.
This method is ideal for occasional feeds, for small babies, or for giving colostrum during the first few days of life. It is also very useful for babies who have sucking difficulties or who reject the breast because when sucking the finger, they must keep their tongue in a position very similar to the one when breastfeeding.
You can find a detailed description of this method here.
Cup or spoon
Although it seems impossible, even premature babies can be fed with a cup. A normal small cup can be used, and there are also special cups for supplementing small babies, usually of soft texture or silicone.
To achieve that, the baby can drink the milk without choking. First, the baby needs to be seated or tilted upright. The cup or spoon will be placed on the upper lip to allow the baby to lick the milk. The baby will then reach out its tongue and collect small amounts of milk.
Small babies should NEVER have milk poured directly into their mouths as they may choke or inhale the milk. The only challenge with this method is that sometimes amounts of milk can be spilled, and in the case of expressed breast milk, it is a pity that this is lost. This method is suitable for babies and children of any age if it is done respecting the needs we have pointed out.
Sippy cups are easily available in any supermarket or pharmacy. There are two types of sippy cups; some have a non-drip valve that prevents the milk from accidentally spilling out. If they do not have this valve, they are ideal for babies over 6 months old who can hold the cup and swallow without difficulty. If they have this non-drip valve, babies from the age of 4 months onwards need to learn how to create a vacuum to use them, as they still need to learn how to drink milk as if sucking on a straw.
Sports water bottle
For older babies over 8 months old, this can be a great way for nighttime feeds when the mother is not at home or wants to try weaning from the breast during the night. These sports bottles are inexpensive, and babies can manage the amount of milk they want to have.
As mentioned at the beginning, baby bottles are the most commonly used way of supplementing formula milk or feeding expressed breastmilk.
If you decide to give your baby milk this way, do so with the paced bottle feeding method, which allows babies to drink milk in the most natural way possible.
The paced bottle feeding method consists of placing the baby seated; the adult must keep the bottle as flat as possible so babies can regulate how much milk they have and stay relaxed. Short pauses and even removing the bottle from their mouth every 20 sucks can prevent the baby from drinking more milk than they need.
There is more information about the paced bottle feeding method here.
Each caregiver needs to find the most effective method to offer milk to your baby; by following your instructions and preferences, surely together you will find the most appropriate way for you.
Do you have any other questions?
You can find more information about all things breastfeeding in our free app, LactApp, for iPhone or Android. In the contact section of the app, you can find an in-app consultation channel where our experts will answer your questions.