Using expressed breast milk for extra feeds
There are a number of ways to use your expressed breast milk to feed your baby.
Finger feeding is a way of giving your baby expressed breast milk without using a bottle teat as some babies may take preference to a teat and refuse the breast. Finger feeding uses a bottle with a thin tube rather than a teat.
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How to finger feed
- After washing your hands, securely wrap your baby.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Support your baby with a pillow.
- Using the index or middle finger gently stroke your baby’s lips from the chin upwards until your baby’s mouth is open.
- Allow the baby to begin sucking your finger (with your finger pad towards the top of your baby’s mouth).
- If your baby is sleepy gently introduce your finger into their mouth. If your baby’s lower lip is sucked in, pull down on the chin to release baby’s lip.
- Insert large end of the tube into the bottle below the milk line.
- Gently insert the tube alongside your finger to the finger tip and raise the bottle so that the expressed breast milk flows down the tube.
- The technique is working if the baby is drinking. If the feeding is very slow – but the baby is swallowing well – raise the bottle to increase the flow. If your baby is gulping, lower the bottle to slow the flow.
Cup feeding is an alternative means of providing colostrum (the first milk you produce which contains substances to nourish your baby and protect from disease) or expressed breast milk (not formula) to babies unable to attach and/or suck at the breast successfully. It is most successful when your baby is wide awake and interested.
How to cup feed
- Wrap your baby securely.
- Support your baby in an upright sitting position.
- Fill a small clean medicine cup half full with expressed breast milk.
- Tip the cup so that the milk is touching your baby’s lips. Do not pour the milk into your baby’s mouth.
- Tilt the rim of the cup touching the baby’s bottom lip, towards the upper lips and gums.
- As your baby’s jaw is lowered, a small amount of feed will be taken and swallowed.
- Leave the cup in the correct position during the feed as this allows your baby to self regulate the feed as desired.
- After use, wash the cup in warm soapy water and rinse well.
Paced bottle feeding for older breastfed infants
Using a bottle is another method of giving your baby expressed breast milk. A bottle teat does not always allow a baby to ‘pace’ their intake as they do when breastfeeding. If the bottle is held vertically, the milk pours out. It is important to adjust the angle of the bottle to allow your baby to ‘pace’ themselves.
How to use a paced bottle
- Place your baby in a more upright position than ‘traditional’ bottle feeding techniques.
- Support the baby’s back so the baby’s head can extend into a natural drinking position.
- Use a slow-flow round teat.
- Stroke the bottle teat gently from the baby’s chin up to the lower lip to encourage him or her to make a wide-open mouth. When your baby has a wide-open mouth, place the entire teat into his or her mouth.
Important: Avoid pushing the teat into a baby’s mouth that is not open.
- Hold the bottle horizontally so there is just enough milk in the teat. This will ensure no air is in the tip of the teat and encourage your baby to suck on the teat without gulping or using their tongue to slow the flow.
- Withdraw the teat slightly every few minutes to allow your baby to take a pause as they would naturally on the breast.
- Switch sides to assist with eye stimulation and to prevent preference for one side.
- As the amount of milk in the bottle decreases, gradually lean your baby backward.
How long should a ‘paced’ bottle feed take?
You should aim for the feed to take at least 20 minutes. If a feed takes less time than this the flow is too fast, and if the feed takes more than 45 minutes then the flow is too slow.
Watch your baby’s cues to know when to finish the feed rather than encouraging them to finish the bottle.
Where to get help
Breastfeeding Centre of WA
- Phone: 9368 9368 – 8.00am to 8.00pm 7 days a week
- Outside metro area – Free call 1800 111 546 (free from land line only)
- Visit the Ngala website (external site)
Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)
You can also:
- See your doctor
- Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
Breastfeeding Centre of WA
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.