Cup-feeding is a way to provide breast milk or formula to a baby who is unwilling or unable to breastfeed or drink from a bottle. If a mother wants to breastfeed, cup-feeding is also sometimes used as an alternative to bottle-feeding for a baby who needs supplementation for a few days.
To cup-feed your baby, fill a medicine cup to about 1 fl oz (30 mL) with breast milk or formula. Make sure your baby is supported in an upright position and is wrapped or swaddled to keep his or her hands from getting in the way and spilling the cup. When you swaddle your baby, keep the blanket loose around the hips and legs. If the legs are wrapped tightly or straight, hip problems may develop. Your baby should also be alert.
You want your baby to slurp or sip the milk. Do not pour the milk into his or her mouth. To do this:
- Stimulate your baby's rooting reflex (as you would when you breastfeed) by tapping the baby's lower lip with the cup. This signals that it's time to eat.
- Rest the brim of the cup lightly on your baby's lower lip, with the brim placed on the outer corners of the upper lip. The tongue should be able to move freely to the cup's lower edge.
- Tip the cup so the milk comes to the edge of your baby's lower lip. Make sure your baby swallows after slurping or sipping the milk. Leave the cup in this position, even as your baby takes breaks. You will need to stop for occasional burping.
The feeding should last no more than about 30 minutes. Follow your baby's cues about when to stop.
Many babies with special needs can easily learn how to cup-feed. This feeding technique can promote the physical bond between the mother and baby when breastfeeding or bottle-feeding is not possible.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics