Finger feeding is best used to prepare the baby who is refusing to latch on to take the breast. It needs to be done only for a minute or two, at the most, just before trying the baby on the breast if the baby is refusing to latch on. See video clip Finger Feed to Latch. If the mother is not present to feed the baby or if the baby still doesn't latch on after the finger feeding is attempted, then feeding the baby with a cup is better than finger feeding which can be slow.
Please Note: If the baby is taking the breast, it is far better to use the lactation aid tube at the breast, if supplementation is truly necessary (See information sheet Protocol for Managing Breastmilk Intake and Lactation Aid). Again, finger feeding is not a good method of supplementation in the latching baby.
Finger feeding (best learned by watching and doing). See also the video clip Not Yet Latching; Finger feed to Latch
1. Wash your hands. It is better if the fingernail on the finger you will use has been cut short, but this is not necessary.
2. It is best to position yourself and the baby comfortably. The baby's head should be supported with one hand behind his shoulders and neck; the baby should be on your lap, half seated. It may be easiest if he is facing you. However, any position which is comfortable for you and the baby and which allows you to keep your finger flat in the baby’s mouth will do. See the video clip Finger feed to latch.
3. You will need a lactation aid, made up of a feeding tube (#5French, 93 cm or 36 inches long), and a feeding bottle with an enlarged nipple hole, filled with expressed breast milk or supplement. The feeding tube is passed through the enlarged nipple hole into the fluid.
4. Line up the tube so that it sits on the soft part of your index, thumb, or middle finger. The end of the tube should line up no further than the end of your finger. It is easiest to grip the tube, about where it makes a gentle curve, between your thumb and middle finger and then position your index finger under the tube. If this is done properly, there is no need to tape the tube to your finger.
5. Using your finger with the tube, tickle the baby's upper lip lightly until the baby opens up his mouth enough to allow your finger to enter. If the baby is very sleepy, but needs to be fed, the finger may be gently insinuated into his mouth. Pull the baby's lower lip out if necessary by exerting some downward pressure on the baby's chin. Generally, the baby will begin to suck even if asleep and as he receives liquids he will then wake up.
6. Insert your finger with the tube so that the soft part of your finger remains upwards. Keep your finger as flat as possible, thus keeping the baby’s tongue flat and forward. Usually the baby will begin sucking on the finger, and allow the finger to enter quite far. The baby will not usually gag on your finger even if it is in his mouth quite far, unless the baby is not hungry or he is very used to bottles.
7. Gently pull down the baby's chin, if his lower lip is sucked in.
8. The technique is working if the baby is drinking. If feeding is very slow, you may raise the bottle above the baby's head, but usually this should not be necessary. Try to keep your finger straight, flattening the baby's tongue. Try not to point your finger up, but keep it flat. Do not apply pressure to the roof of baby's mouth.
9. The use of finger feeding with a syringe to push milk into the baby's mouth is, in my opinion, too difficult for the mother to do alone and definitely not more effective than simply using a bottle with the nipple hole enlarged and the tube coming from it. The idea of finger feeding is not to feed the baby! The idea is to train the baby to suck properly so that pushing milk into his mouth defeats the whole purpose of finger feeding.