Every new mum has the “breast is best” philosophy drummed into her brain, but sometimes breast just isn’t possible. Medical issues (such as breast reduction surgery), latching problems, low milk supply, or welcoming a baby via adoption are just some of the breastfeeding challenges new mums can encounter. You know all the good reasons for babe to nurse (like these 7 Health Benefits to Keep in Mind), but if it isn’t possible, there are still ways to make sure your little one gets that all-important breast milk.
For the best guidance, check with your doula or midwife, lactation consultants at your local hospital, or volunteers with La Leche League.
Cup Feeding: Nursing doesn’t come easily for everyone. If breastfeeding is your ultimate goal, but you’re struggling, cup feeding is a good short-term solution. Put an ounce of breast milk in a small medicine cup, place against the baby’s lower lip and tilt just until the milk touches the baby’s lip. Your baby will lap the milk from the cup with her tongue. (Here’s a great how-to video.) Let your baby control her intake. She’ll know when she’s had enough. To prevent choking or overfeeding, never pour the milk into her mouth.
Finger Feeding: This is a good technique to prevent nipple confusion if breastfeeding is your ultimate goal with your newborn, and it’s another one that partners can get involved with. You can use a specially-made device or improvise one from a feeding tube, bottle and nipple with an enlarged hole. Drop one end of the feeding tube into an open bottle of breast milk and run it through an enlarged bottle nipple to prevent spills. Wash your hands, and trim or file your nails so there aren’t any sharp spots. Tape the other end of the tube to your finger and, turning your hand palm-up, let the baby suckle from this stand-in nipple. The tube should enter at the corner of the baby’s mouth and extend just past the gums. You can also use this method to “prime” your baby for breastfeeding, trying it for a few seconds or minutes to prepare before trying your baby on the breast. One advantage of this method is you can see exactly how much milk your little one is getting, and baby still controls when to pause and breathe between gulps. It should take about 20 minutes to drink drink 30ml (1 ounce) of milk.
Lactation Aids: If nursing is tricky, you can ensure your baby is getting enough milk by using a lactation aid while you nurse. Using the same setup as the fingerfeeding method, drop one end of the feeding tube into a bottle of breastmilk, then loop the other end over your shoulder, running the tube across your breast. As your baby latches on to your nipple, slip the tube into the corner of her mouth, just past her gums. She can nurse and draw milk from the tube at the same time, ensuring that she’s getting enough to eat while still practicing nursing skills. Like the finger feeding method, you can see exactly how much milk your little one is getting, and baby still controls when to pause and breathe between gulps. It should take about 20 minutes to drink 30ml (1 ounce) of milk. Check out this video from Toronto’s International Breastfeeding Centre to see how this method works.
Bottles: If nursing isn’t an option (or your partner wants to help out), bottles are a convenient alternative. To prevent nipple confusion, experts recommended that bottles aren’t introduced until breastfeeding is well-established, usually around the fourth week. There are plenty of bottle systems to choose from, such as the Calma line, which features an extra-long nipple to mimic the natural shape of the breast in a baby’s mouth.
Want more help with feeding baby? Here are 6 Ways Your Partner Can Help While You’re Breastfeeding, and here are a a few tips for Keeping Up Your Milk Supply While Breastfeeding.