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Cup Feeding as an Alternative to Bottle Feeding

Did you know that you could feed your baby with a small cup instead of a bottle?  In fact, it is actually a fantastic alternative!  We will explain why in this post.

It is widely accepted that breastfeeding is the best for your baby.  What many people may not know is that it is not just the breast milk that a baby receives that makes it the best, but it is also the way the mouth functions and how the sucking mechanism at breast works which actually shapes the jaw, airway, and facial muscles that is very important.  Of course, there are a multitude of reasons why a mother may not be able to breastfeed her baby, at least for a short time.  Many moms also plan to go back to work or for other reasons may choose not to breastfeed but would like to give their baby breastmilk.

One option we highly recommend considering is cup feeding!  It is counter intuitive to what we know as a culture but it really works… in fact, it works very well!  Recent research suggests that cup feeding involves more of the masseter muscles (one of the facial muscles) which is important for craniofacial development, and more closely mimics breastfeeding in contrast to bottle feeding.

Breastfeeding involves the masseter, temporalis, pterygoids, and suprahyoid muscles which work together to develop the jaw and facial muscles, and an open airway.  This research utilized electromyography to measure the amount of activity in the muscles.  Bottle feeding had the least amount of muscular activity in the masseters, suggesting it is the least optimal for development.

So how does it work?  Babies actually lap the milk and suck it up, much like a baby kitten would lap milk from a bowl.  Babies are able to extend their tongue which strengthens their tongue and gives them practice for extending their tongue at the breast.

Give it a try!  You can use any small cup which you can fill with 1-3 oz. of breast milk depending on how old and large your baby is.  We think that shot glasses make a great option for this.

If you would like further assistance with cup feeding your baby contact your local IBCLC today!