Some babies may need some help with feeding, particularly those who are premature or have other health issues. There are lots of other methods that can be used to feed babies besides breastfeeding and bottle feeding. For the majority of babies, these are temporary measures, and the team will ensure that your baby is able to breastfeed or bottle feed before they are discharged. Babies may be fed in a combination of these ways (e.g. alternating tube feeds with breast or bottle feeds).
Although expressed milk can be given via bottle, not all babies will be strong enough to bottle feed, and in some cases the use of a teat can make it more difficult for babies to breastfeed. If you are planning to breastfeed, you should discuss this with the team caring for your baby so that they can find the best alternative.
The best methods for feeding your baby will be discussed with you. A feeding plan will be completed and reviewed regularly. You’ll be given support to get your baby breastfeeding as soon as possible, and shown how to feed your baby using alternative methods.
These methods include:
Letting your baby suck colostrum from your finger in their first few days
This involves using a sterile syringe to feed small amount of colostrum to your baby. This allows you to feed the colostrum you’ve expressed and collected directly to your baby. Once you are giving more than 5ml of milk at a time, it’s best to move on to cup feeding.
Using a small plastic open cup about the size of a shot glass to feed your baby. Cup feeding encourages the baby to use their tongue and lower jaw in a similar way as they would when breastfeeding. The cup is half-filled with expressed breastmilk or formula and then held to the baby’s lips, so that they can lap at the milk with their tongue.
A fine plastic tube, called a nasogastric tube (or NG tube), is passed into your baby’s stomach via the nose, and milk is syringed into this tube. It’s very important that the end of the tube stays in your baby’s stomach so you’ll be shown how to check this yourself before giving a feed. This method allows a baby to have a full feed even if they are not strong enough to latch or suck, so it is often used for premature or unwell babies.
Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)
Fine plastic tubes are taped to the breast, allowing additional breastmilk or formula to be given while your baby is breastfeeding. This is a good way to give additional milk while establishing breastfeeding and encouraging your baby to latch.