Alternative Feeding Methods

In certain situations, breastfed babies need to be supplemented. Premature babies, babies sleepy from drugs taken by the mother in labor, babies with neurological problems, babies with hypotonia and others may not be able to take as much milk as they need from the breast. These babies will need to be fed in an alternative manner. Your expressed breast milk is the first choice in supplements but there is no best alternative feeding method so there many things to consider when choosing one.

Not Only Bottles

Bottles are problematic for many reasons. Unless a bottle is used properly (see article on paced bottle feeding) it may confuse a young baby. Babies suck differently on bottles than on breasts. Babies given bottles often suck wrong at the breast or don't suck at all as milk will flow from the bottle into their mouths without sucking. Most bottles flow too quickly, making breathing difficult. Also, eating too quickly leads to overfeeding.

Cup Feeding

Cup feeding is used all over the world for supplementing breastfed babies who need more calories. Done properly, it is safe for even the tiniest babies. Cups are cheap, easily available and easy to clean. Spoons can be used as well. While cup feeding, babies lap at the milk like kittens, there is no sucking involved. Be sure to be taught how to use this method properly.

Finger Feeding

Finger feeding is the preferred method for a baby with a sucking problem. A thin flexible feeding tube is taped to the feeder's finger with the opening flush with the finger and the other end in a bottle of milk or a syringe full of milk. The feeder uses his or her finger to "train" the baby's suck. The baby is then rewarded for sucking properly with a bolus of milk. The purpose of this method is too fix the baby's sucking problem and get him back to the breast as soon as possible. A lactation consultant can teach you to use this method.

Supplementing At The Breast

Though a bit daunting for some mothers, this method has excellent results. Like finger feeding, this method involves a feeding tube and a bottle of milk. In this case the feeding tube is on the breast, flush with the nipples. As the baby breastfeeds, he receives milk from the tube as well as the breast. This method is especially useful for mothers with a low milk supply. The mother can keep the tube closed as long as her baby is drinking from the breast. Once he is no longer actively sucking, she opens the tube. The supplement will keep the baby active at the breast. This extra sucking builds up the mothers milk supply. This method is especially useful for adoptive mothers and mothers who are relactating. A lactation consultant can help get you started.

Specialty Feeding Devices

There are many devices designed to help babies with specific problems, such as a cleft palate. The occupational therapist or lactation consultant working with you will help you select the right method.