Finger and Cup Feeding

If you are having trouble getting the baby to latch on to or to suckle at the breast, remember that a ravenous baby can make the going very difficult. Take the edge off his hunger by using the finger feeding technique for a minute or so. Once the baby has settled a little, and sucks well on your finger (usually only a minute or so), try offering the breast again. If you still encounter difficulty, do not be discouraged. Go back to finger feeding and try again later in the feed or next feeding. This technique usually works. Sometimes several days, or on occasion a week or more, of finger feeding are necessary, however.

Cup Feeding (best learned by watching and doing)

Cup feeding (and similar vessels like spoon, etc.) is a method of feeding baby that has been around for a very long period of time. It should be used to feed a baby who is not yet taking the breast and is better than a bottle. This should not be used to supplement a baby who is taking the breast (see the information sheets Lactation Aid and When Baby Does Not Yet Latch).

1. Sit baby upright on your lap with baby's head supported while you have one hand behind his shoulders and neck
2. Use a small medicine cup or shot glass when first learning how to cup feed
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 pussycat. 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.

If you are leaving the hospital finger or cup feeding the baby, make an appointment with the clinic within a day or so of discharge, or get other good hands-on help quickly. The earlier the better. Once the baby is taking the breast, he may still require the lactation aid to supplement for a period of time; because although the baby may take the breast, the latch can still be less than ideal, and the suck may still not be efficient enough to ensure adequate intake (See information sheet Is my Baby Getting Enough Milk?).

Questions? Get Dr. Jack Newman's book The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.

Jack NewmanJack Newman graduated from the University of Toronto medical school as a pediatrician in 1970. He started the first hospital-based breastfeeding clinic in Canada in 1984 at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. He has been a consultant with UNICEF for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in Africa, and has published articles on the subject of breastfeeding in Scientific American and several medical journals. Dr. Newman has practiced as a physician in Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Written and revised (under other names) by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, 1995-2005
Revised by Jack Newman MD, FRCPC, IBCLC and Edith Kernerman IBCLC, 2008, 2009