Syringe and Cup Feeding


Bottles may be the most common way we see babies fed, but aren’t the only way to feed a baby off the breast. Some mothers want to avoid bottle preference or choose an alternate feeding method to help the baby get back to the breast. Please visit this article on proper techniques for bottle feeding human milk.

Syringe feeding is often employed by families whose babies need short term supplementation while they develop breastfeeding skills. Syringe feeding is sometimes done in tandem with oral exercises under the supervision of an LC, SLP, pediatrician, or other specialist. Oasis Lactation Services prefers curved tipped periodontal syringes for this feeding method. Theses syringes are generally sold in 10-12 cc volume, which is about 1/3 ounce.  It is important to know if the syringes you are using are precision measured or an estimate.


General Guidelines for Syringe Feeding Your Baby

  1. Fill syringe with expressed breast milk (or formula if supplementation is required).
  2. Sit baby upright on your lap with baby’s head supported, at a 45 degree angle or taller. Baby should not be flat on back.
  3. Stroke baby’s face to stimulate gape response. Gently drag finger down from tip of baby’s nose to the chin. When baby opens wide, offer finger to suck, pad side up.
  4. Once baby begins to suck, introduce syringe to the corner of the mouth. Point the tip of the syringe into the cheek. The tip is rigid. Do not allow the tip of the syringe to touch the gums.
  5. Responsively depress plunger as baby is sucking on finger. The baby is only able to swallow small amounts. The baby needs time between pulses of milk to coordinate breathing. One pulse of milk should be followed by a swallow and two or three sucks.

Cup feeding for supplementation off the breast may be a good choice for several reasons. Cups are easy to sterilize unlike rubber nipples. Cup technology is available around the world in all cultures. Cup feeding teaches baby oral skills that he will use for a lifetime. Babies who are cup feeding learn tongue extension, which is a useful skill for drawing the breast deep into the mouth to nurse.

General Guidelines for Cup Feeding Your Baby

  1. Sit baby upright on your lap with baby’s head supported, at a 45 degree angle or taller. Baby should not be flat on back.
  2. Use a small medicine cup or shot glass.
  3. Place the edge of the cup gently on baby’s lower lip.
  4. Bring the liquid to baby’s lower lip so baby will lap it up like a cat drinking milk from a bowl. Do not pour the liquid in baby’s mouth
  5. It is important to maintain the level of the liquid as best as possible so baby can continually lap it up.
  6. Go slowly as the two of you learn how to do this. Eventually, this can become a very fast and efficient way of feeding until baby learns to take the breast, and this is a good method to use to avoid artificial nipples and teats. This method also encourages tongue extension which is helpful training for babies who have had tongue tie revision or therapy for shallow latching.

Leave a Reply