Breastfeeding is the best way to provide nourishment for babies, but for a lot of mothers, there are instances when they will need other methods to provide milk to their little ones aside from directly offering the breast. Although the bottle is the most common method being used when the baby is not directly fed from the breast, there are other alternative methods that are more beneficial for your baby.
According to the World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendation, a cup is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat. Our experts and cup-feeding mothers share their own experiences and insights on why they chose to cup-feed their babies.
1. Cup-feeding helps to continue direct breastfeeding. One of the biggest perks of cup-feeding is that it avoids nipple confusion. Nipple confusion may happen when your baby gets introduced to an artificial teat. Using an artificial teat involves a different sucking mechanism – one that requires less effort from the baby to get the milk he wants. This can lead to your baby rejecting the breast and jeopardizing your breastfeeding relationship.
Dr. Axel Trecho-Gerochi, mom of 2-year-old Icoy and a dentist at Gerochi Dental and Implant Center in Bel-Air Village, Makati City, chose to cup-feed her son. She says, “I used to think that feeding bottles can mimic how our breasts work. Good thing I was able to learn at an early stage of my breastfeeding journey that even the most expensive ones can never replace how our breasts work!”
In the case of Aileen Uy, mom of 34-month-old Gaby, her daughter refused any type of feeding bottle when she had to go back to work. Aileen discovered cup-feeding to be the perfect solution because not only did Gaby take to cup-feeding easily, it also prevented nipple confusion, which was particularly important because Aileen is still directly breastfeeding Gaby.
2. Cup-feeding helps to prevent malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth) and abnormal development of the jaws. Dr. Axel’s training as a dentist also helped in her decision to cup-feed her son Icoy, “How you feed your baby has a huge contribution in your baby’s mouth and jaw development.”
She shares, “Feeding bottles can alter the development of our little one’s jaw and cup-feeding can help reduce or prevent this abnormal development. Cup-feeding will also help prevent misalignment of the teeth which can lead to poor performance of vital oral functions such as eating, speech, and breathing.”
3. Cup-feeding helps to prevent dental caries. Dr. Axel has had her share of very young patients who already has dental caries. According to Dr. Axel, although other factors contribute to tooth decay, bottle-feeding may lead to this condition among toddlers and babies whose teeth are still just growing. She explains, “Cup-feeding prevents caries which babies can get from having their teeth soaked on artificial nipples during bottle-feeding.”
4. Cup-feeding is more affordable. Another sensible perk of cup-feeding is its affordability. Aileen points out that with cup-feeding, she didn’t have to buy any expensive bottles and teats. She also found them easier to clean. She adds, “I am thankful we learned about cup-feeding. It saved us a lot of money and energy!”
5. Cup-feeding prevents over-feeding. This alternative feeding method, although easy to learn, requires that the baby exert more effort in getting the milk. For Noelle Polack, mom of a 4-year-old and a 16-month-old, this is beneficial for the baby because it allows her baby to regulate his intake, guarding against inadvertent force-feeding.
Feeding your baby from a cup does not mean pouring the milk down your baby’s mouth; instead, you only have to tilt the cup up until it touches your baby’s mouth and then let your baby lap the milk using his tongue into his mouth. This will help prevent over-feeding which may happen if milk is just dripping into your baby’s mouth like what may happen when bottle-feeding.
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6. Cup-feeding is safer for teething babies. Teething babies like to bite and gnaw. Kath, mom of 16-month-old Skylar, shared that when her son started teething, one of the things he liked biting on is the artificial nipple on his bottle. She was scared when, during one of his feeding sessions, Skylar accidentally bit off a piece of the artificial nipple, posing a danger to her child had his caregiver not been aware of what happened. This prompted her decision to shift to cup-feeding.
7. Cup-feeding eliminates cup training. Every baby will eventually need to learn how to use a cup. This hurdle is effectively eliminated for babies who are cup-fed. Aileen adds, “My daughter, who was cup-fed, never needed to use training cups and sippy cups.”
Noelle also shares the same experience, “My son started holding his own cup and drinking from it when he was around nine months old.”
Cup-feeding may seem risky and scary for some, but most mothers who experienced cup-feeding their babies will attest to how safe and easy it is. Even small and sick newborns are actually fed through a cup or spoon or dropper in NICU’s. When Bern Bathan-Basuel gave birth to her son Brennan, he had to stay for one more week in the NICU. Brennan was fed through a cup during his stay. She and her husband were amazed and shares, “It was easy and seemed very natural.”
Dr. Axel encourages other mothers to cup-feed their babies, “Cup-feeding is convenient and easy. You will learn the proper way of doing it in no time.” You may ask your pediatrician to teach you and your baby’s caregiver how to cup-feed your baby.
References: April 16, 2002. "Infant and young child nutrition". apps.who.int October 2012. "Cup-feeding". www.breastfeeding.asn.au http://www.brandonrha.mb.ca/export/sites/brandonrha/galleries/pdf/Having_a_Baby/X172.pdf http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-F-CF