Low-Tech Breast Feeding

Nursing isn’t always easy for mom or baby. Sixty percent of moms breast-feed after leaving the hospital, but within six months, half of them stop. Instead of giving up and switching to a bottle, there are ways to help babies learn how to nurse.

Like many newborns, Brandon didn’t take to breast-feeding right away. Instead of switching to a bottle, Brandon’s mom, Susan, began feeding him from a cup after pumping her own milk. To get mom’s milk, Brandon licks it from the spout of the cup, an action that mimics breast-feeding.

“It seemed to work for him. Within a couple of days he was able to breast-feed exclusively without any supplementing,” says Susan.

Feeding cups have been used for centuries in India. Dr. Bhutani, a pediatrician and neonatologist, is studying whether or not the cup can help American babies breast-feed.

Three hundred newborns are being studied. Dr. Bhutani says a preliminary study of the cup with premature babies was successful. “The babies were stable. They seem to handle the feeding technique well.”

Why the cup and not a bottle? Lactation consultant Tammy says bottle-feeding is too easy. It just pours into a baby’s mouth. The cup forces babies to use the same muscles used in nursing.

Tammy says, “There are approximately 63 nerves that are responsible for the coordination of sucking, swallowing and breathing.”

The cup isn’t publicly available yet, but Dr. Bhutani hopes to make it available to newborns soon. Licking milk from a spoon or a tube taped to a finger can also prepare babies for mom’s milk.

Susan hopes her experience encourages other moms to give breast-feeding aids a try.

If the study in Philadelphia proves the cup is safe and effective, researchers will conduct a larger study of premature babies nationwide.

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