Alternatives to bottle feeding

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Breast feeding is, by far, the best option for feeding infants under six months. However, this may not be a viable option for some mothers. Some babies born prematurely do not have a developed suckling reflex and might be unable to feed from the breast or the bottle. Others might require supplements if their doctors feel they are not growing well. Some mothers may need to get back to work soon after delivery, and may not be in a position to breastfeed their babies exclusively.


Why should I be aware of it?

However, plastic feeding bottles are not a healthy alternative. They are made from one of two compounds: polyethylene (or EVA plastics) and polycarbonate. While both materials are considered generally safe, research has shown that polycarbonate is not very stable at higher temperatures. If milk is heated in polycarbonate bottles for 20 to 30 minutes at 100 degrees centigrade (212 degrees Fahrenheit), a toxic chemical, bisphenol-A could contaminate it.

Many believe that bottle feeding is the only option open to them in this case. However, this is not true. There are many other feeding methods that parents are not aware of. Raising awareness about these methoda might be critical in fostering healthy feeding practices by mindful parents.

All about bottle feeding alternatives


The best alternative to bottle feeding is, of course, breast feeding. It is the healthiest option for both mother and child, is convenient and natural. While alternative methods may take a little bit longer than conventional bottle feeding, but none of these methods are difficult to use.

Cup Feeding – Even newborns can drink milk from a cup, lapping it up like kittens, or drinking it slowly, drop by drop. Cup drinkers are least likely to get nipple confused, and more likely to go on to successfully breastfeed. Many neonatologists prefer this method of feeding for premature babies, and have successfully used it to feed babies with gestational ages as young as thirty weeks. Research has shown that premature babies actually maintain a more stable blood-oxygen level during cup-feeding than during bottle-feeding.

Spoon Feeding – this is a much more time-consuming alternative, but works just the same, especially with babies who have not learnt to suckle well. Support her upright on your lap as you would for cup-feeding and offer small spoonfuls of milk, placing the tip of the spoon on her lower lip. Allow her to swallow the milk at her own pace.

Eye Dropper or Feeding Syringe – You could use specialized droppers to drop milk into the baby’s mouth while holding her upright on your lap. A feeding syringe is similar to an eyedropper, but it holds more.

Nursing Supplementer (also known as supplemental nutrition system) – This allows baby to receive supplements while she is being breast fed. A container for the milk (either a bag or a plastic bottle) hangs from a cord around mother's neck. Narrow silicone tubing runs from the container to the tip of mother's nipple and is secured with tape near the nipple. So when the baby latches onto the breast, she gets the supplement along with breast milk. This technique is often used when the mother is not producing enough milk or the baby is not suckling properly. The sucking helps stimulate the mother's milk supply, and the supplement rewards the baby for sucking properly. It may also be used by mothers nursing adopted babies, or by those who want to re establish lactation after early weaning or an illness. For more, go to Nursing Supplementers.

Finger Feeding – this technique is used with babies who have not yet learned how to latch onto the breast. It involves using a nursing supplementer to provide milk while baby sucks on an adult finger. Instead of being taped to the breast, the supplementer’s tubing is taped to the adult finger, and the finger is gently inserted in the baby's mouth. An alternative to the suupplementer is the feeding syringe.

Other Feeding Devices – these are designed for special circumstances. For example, the Haberman Feeder, is used for infants with oral-facial abnormalities, such as cleft lip or palate, receding jaw, or babies who have a developmentally delayed suck. This bottle has a long nipple and a valve that regulates the flow of milk.

What can I do about it?

Method of cup feeding

Ideally, use a small cup with a spout (a small milk jug will do well, or you could buy special cups available in the market that are meant for infant feeding). Fill half the cup with formula or expressed breast milk. Hold baby on your lap in an upright supported position, and tilt the cup so the milk just touches the baby’s lips. Allow baby to lap up the milk and swallow at her own pace. Don't pour the milk into baby's mouth; she may sputter and choke.

See also


  • WHO Document on Infant Care, Page 206
  • Alternatives to the Bottle