When our baby daughter didn’t feel well and refused the bottle (and even the nipple), we had to figure out how to feed our baby without bottle feeding.
There could be various reasons your little one is denying the bottle. So, how do you feed a baby without bottle feeding?
Methods for feeding a baby without a bottle include using a syringe, eyedropper, a spoon, or sippy cup. Nursing supplementers can be used by mothers who are struggling to breastfeed their babies but don’t want to use a bottle. Not all alternatives are safe feeding methods though.
- Babies who won’t or can’t take the bottle can be fed using syringes, eyedroppers, spoons, sippy cups, the finger-feeding method, or breastfeeding supplementers.
- Using the correct techniques is important to ensure alternative feeding methods are safe.
- Cup feeding can be a better alternative to bottle feeding!
Fill the syringe with milk and hold your baby in a semi-upright position to avoid choking. Place your finger gently inside their mouth, letting them suck on it before inserting the syringe tip between their lips.
Slowly squirt the milk into your baby’s mouth, giving them time to swallow without gagging. Using a periodontal syringe with a soft tip is gentler on your baby’s lips, mouth, or gums and is an excellent choice for teething babies.
An eyedropper works similarly to the syringe method. The eyedropper method works well for newborn babies who refuse the bottle and need supplementary feeding to breastfeeding.
It’s important to support the baby’s head and back in a semi-upright position to allow the fluid to flow smoothly down the throat.
3. Using a spoon
From six months old, babies can start to swallow pureed or mashed food and spoon-feeding is a good weaning option. You can also use the spoon alternative in the following situations:
- Your baby isn’t well.
- Teething makes drinking from a bottle uncomfortable.
- Nasal congestion makes it hard to suck from the bottle.
A silicone-covered infant spoon is gentler on your baby’s gums and mouth.
Here’s an article where I compared spoon- with bottle-feeding.
This video demonstrates how to spoon-feed your baby safely.
4. Using your finger
Finger feeding with a soft tube is an alternative often used for newborn babies struggling to latch. Breastmilk is expressed and placed into a sterile container with a soft tube that’s attached to your finger. You put your finger with the tube into your baby’s mouth, letting them suck while drawing the milk through the tubing into their mouth.
This finger-finger system can be used short term to supplement extra feeds. Before using this feeding method, make sure your nails are cut short and filed smoothly and that you wash your hands well with anti-bacterial soap.
5. Dipping a pacifier into food
Dipping a pacifier into baby food is an alternative to consider for older babies over six months old who are familiar with solids. We’ve used this method with our toddler when we forgot to pack her bottle when visiting the grandparents!
When using the pacifier method make sure you do the following:
- Clean the pacifier with a gentle detergent to ensure it’s hygienic.
- Use infant cereal or pureed or mashed baby food.
- Ensure the pacifier isn’t damaged.
6. Use a sippy cup
Using a sippy cup is one of the best ways to ensure your baby gets their daily quota of infant formula or breast milk without a bottle. However, sippy cups are only suitable for babies from four to six months and older.
When our toddler was transitioning from the bottle, she was happy to drink from a sippy cup. Introducing the sippy cup has its challenges so consider the following ideas:
- Some babies find it easier to drink from a soft and flexible spout.
- Demonstrate how to use the cup by drinking from it yourself.
- Be consistent and don’t go back to the bottle once you introduce the sippy cup.
- Try different designs if your baby doesn’t like the one you’re giving them.
- Use a spill-proof lid to reduce mess and frustration!
When comparing sippy cups vs bottles consider features such as ease of use, assembling, and types of materials before picking a cup for your baby.
7. Breastfeeding supplementer
A breastfeeding or nursing supplementer is a system used by mothers who don’t want to go the bottle-feeding route with their babies. When mothers and babies struggle with breastfeeding, using a nursing supplementer ensures the baby gets enough breast milk for healthy growth and development.
A container with a thin tube attached is hung with a cord around the mother’s neck. The container is filled with freshly-pumped breast milk while the thin tube is taped to the mother’s breast close to the nipple.
Holding your baby in a feeding position in your arms and bringing them to your breast, your little one will start to suck on the nipple and tubing at the same time.
Reasons why you’d want to feed baby without a bottle
The baby doesn’t want to take the bottle
If your baby is pushing the bottle out with the tongue it often means they don’t want to take it at all! But, it could also mean they’re teething and it’s painful to suck on the teat, they have a blocked note and can’t swallow properly, or they’re ill and don’t feel like feeding.
Using alternative feeding methods ensures your baby gets some nutrients and stays hydrated until they feel well enough to drink from a bottle again.
You don’t have a bottle on hand
Using alternatives such as the sippy cup, pacifier dunked in baby food, or spoon-feeding saves the day if you’re out and about but don’t have a bottle on hand! It’s pretty easy to find a store selling syringes or eyedroppers as a last resort.
You want to try alternative methods
Breastfeeding moms may be forced to try alternative methods because their babies won’t latch or they’re struggling with sore and cracked nipples and want to give them a break.
Or, you want to start weaning your baby from the bottle or breast and introduce them to the sippy cup. Alternative methods can be used when your baby isn’t well and refuses to take the bottle.
Is it safe to use alternative feeding methods for a baby?
Using alternative feeding methods is normally a supplementary option when your baby refuses the bottle or breast. They’re safe to use as long as the feeding items are cleaned and sanitized properly and used on a short-term basis.
Using alternative feeding methods for babies as long-term alternatives isn’t always the safest for the following reasons:
- Measuring the right quantities isn’t easy which could result in poor growth and development.
- Spillage can lead to underfeeding.
- They become a choking hazard if the baby isn’t fed in the correct feeding position.
- Incorrect use of the cup, spoon, syringe, and eyedropper feeding methods can cause the milk to flow continuously and into the baby’s lungs which is dangerous.
Is cup feeding better than bottle feeding?
Cup-feeding is a reliable alternative to bottle-feeding as long as you use the right techniques. It’s useful in the following situations:
- Helping premature babies to gain weight.
- Feeding babies with cleft palate.
- When babies battle to suck.
- For paced feeding.
Make sure your baby is in an upright position before feeding with a cup and ensure the flow is slow and steady to avoid lung aspiration, choking, or gagging.
Can you spoon-feed breast milk?
Yes, you can spoon-feed breast milk, especially if your baby isn’t latching properly or you’re battling with engorged breasts.
Expressed breast milk can be stored in containers for spoon-feeding. This method allows for paced feeding, letting your baby lead how fast and how much they want to drink. Using a bib will help keep your baby dry when there’s spillage.
The next time your baby cries when bottle feeding, consider using the alternative methods mentioned in this article. Using baby bottle alternatives can save the day when nothing else seems to be working!