6 Alternative Ways to Feed Your Baby

You’ve got two choices: breast or bottle. What’s it going to be?

But, wait, why do I have to choose and are those really my only options?

NO, you do not and no, they are not!

Are they the most common options? Absolutely. But, there are some other great choices out there too.

For numerous reasons (nipple damage, medication, separation, illness..) there can be times when you cannot breastfeed your baby or you simply choose not to- whether that be for a short time period or as a long term plan. If your infant was born premature, sucking at a nipple or bottle may not even been an option until they develop more strength.

When or if any of those occurs, I want you to know that you have CHOICES when it comes to how you want to feed your baby. Today I want to share with you six alternative ways to feed your baby that go beyond the traditional breast or bottle dilemma.

Cup Feeding

Never thought about giving your newborn a cup to drink out of? I know, it sounds a little odd, but it works. You don’t have to use a special cup for this (something about the size of a shot glass works pretty well) but it can help make the process even easier. Our favorite is the Foley cup because of its special rim design and pliability. If you watch your baby drink from a cup it will be more akin to how a puppy laps milk than how we traditionally drink from a cup. Cup feeding is a great option for premature babies who are still developing the muscles needed for sucking at the breast or bottle.

Syringe Feeding/Finger Feeding  

With syringe feeding you fill a small syringe with milk and place it at the baby’s mouth. As the baby tries to suck at it you slowly push the plunger into the syringe and let the milk dribble into baby’s mouth.

Spoon Feeding  

Similar to cup feeding, spoon feeding uses a just a simple spoon. Place a small amount of milk on the spoon, place the spoon on the baby’s lower lip and tip the spoon upward until the milk reaches the baby’s lips. Let them drink the milk at their own pace and refill the spoon as needed.  



A Supplemental Nursing System is a tool often used in conjunction with breastfeeding. A bag of breast milk or formula is attached to a very thin tube. The tube is then run along the breast to the nipple where the baby can latch on to the breast and the tube simultaneously. This can be a great resource for moms who still want to nurse but whose milk production doesn’t match baby’s demands. Moms who have adopted and are trying to stimulate their own milk production can also find this method beneficial.

Finger feeding  

Finger feeding can actually be done several ways. Some people use finger feeding in conjunction with syringe feeding where the baby sucks on the care provider’s finger (please always be sure to thoroughly clean your hands first!) to provide a nipple-like surface for the baby’s tongue to manipulate. At the same time the tip of the syringe is in the baby’s mouth to provide a steady flow of milk. Systems like the SNS is another method that is used with finger feeding. Finger feeding can be beneficial for babies who struggle with sucking or have tongue or lip ties.

Paced Bottle Feeding  

Paced bottle feeding is a great method if you want to provide a more breastfeeding-like experience or help prevent your baby from developing a preference for the bottle. The nipple is not placed in the baby’s mouth, instead the baby is allowed to latch on to it themselves. Once the bottle is in the baby’s mouth it remains at a horizontal level so the baby has to actually pull the milk out of the bottle with their sucking versus gravity doing most of the work for them. Halfway through the feed the baby is burped and switched to the other arm to mimic the changing of breast that occurs with nursing.

Try one method.

Try them all.

Different styles work better for different babies and families, but whatever you choose (or don’t choose) we want you to know that you have options. If one thing isn’t working you don’t have to tough it out just because. Try something different, reach out to a lactation consultant, find the best fit for you and your baby. 


Carissa Chamerlain is a Doula and the owner of Huckleberry Baby in Idaho.

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