Infant Feeding Methods


There are many loving ways to feed an infant. This post will explain 6 ways to feed an infant and the benefits of each of method. It is important to know there is no one right way to feed a baby. The decision on what method to use should be a decision come to based on the family's preferences and lifestyle and after a consultation with a doctor. For the first six months of life, a baby needs breast milk or formula only. Then, until 12 months old, breast milk or formula should be giving along with other complimentary foods. This article will go through all the feeding methods for the first year of life.There are references for additional information at the end of this article. 

Direct Breastfeeding

Direct breastfeeding is when breastfeeding is done directly between child and mother. 

The child, when properly latched, is able to derive their milk and nutrition directly from the breast via breast milk. 

Those individuals who prefer direct breastfeeding enjoy not having to get up to make a bottle, or sterilize bottles and pumping parts. Many mothers often talk about the bond they feel feeding a baby through their breast and the great privilege that is. Though there is a learning curve for most mothers and babies, once the technique is learned, it is typically a very quick and efficient way to feed a baby, even for years to come! Breastfeeding is the biological norm for mammals, and many breastfeeding mothers choose to breastfeed because of this. 

feeding Pumped Breast Milk in a bottle

Bottle feeding breast milk from the mother is a great option for many families as well. Bottle feeding breast milk requires the mother to pump the milk out of her breast, properly store it, then prepare it when it is time to feed the baby. (For more information on how to choose a breast pump, click here)

The child is able to derive their nutritional needs from the breastmilk that is in the bottle.

Those individuals who prefer pumping their breast milk and feeding it to their baby enjoy being able to see precisely how much the baby intakes since both storage devices and bottles have measurements. They often find this a great balance between direct breastfeeding and feeding formula. Sometimes pumping milk seems less like a 'choice', as many mothers have to return to work while the child is still nursing, or baby had enough trouble latching they had to make the decision to go to bottles. Many find joy and bonding in the bottle feeding experience. Many also find relief in the fact that other caregivers can feed the baby with ease. 

formula in a bottle

Feeding formula to a baby is a safe alternative to breast milk in most instances. 

To prepare formula, many families choose to follow the World Health Organizations preparation guidelines - found here. The child is able to derive their nutrition from the formula from the bottle. 

 Many choose to feed their babies formula due to lifestyle, comfort level and logistically they find it easy. They like being able to “make” something for their baby and being able to see exactly how many ounces baby is getting. Parents who bottle feed also enjoy this bonding time with their baby. Many also find relief in the fact that other caregivers can feed the baby with usually little difficulty and ease. 

donor milk in a bottle

Donor milk from another individual is considered an option for many families as well. To ensure safety, the FDA recommends this happens through a milk bank or other facility that screens the milk and milk donor and only after consulting with a healthcare provider. The FDA also recommends against finding milk on the internet or directly person to person in an effort to reduce the risks of a baby ingesting milk from an unscreened donor. 

Those who choose to use breast milk from a milk bank can put it in a bottle just like with other pumped breast milk. The families participating in this often find comfort in that the milk is human milk. Many also find relief in the fact that other caregivers can feed the baby with usually little difficulty and ease. 

Supplemental nursing system

A supplemental nursing system (sometimes referred to as an SNS) is a device that attaches at the breast and delivers formula or breast milk through a tube at the breast rather than a bottle. While the baby is receiving the nutrition through the tube, the baby is also “nursing”, and therefore triggering a hormonal response to the mother to produce milk. 

Those who choose to use an SNS are usually facing some form of difficulty; be it low-milk supply, a premature baby, a baby with a sucking reflex that isn’t effective (just to name a few). Many would say the choice to use SNS is not so much a choice, but something they are doing to help their breastfeeding relationship down the road. 

Feeding Tube

A feeding tube is sometimes used for infants who do not have the muscle strength or ability to breast or bottle feed. Many conditions can contribute to a provider inserting a feeding tube, such as failure to thrive, severe respiratory distress, elimination difficulties, etc. A tube will go in through the infant’s nose down to their stomach (an NG tube) or through a small incision in the abdomen (a G tube).

Those who are using a feeding tube are doing so under direction and supervision of a health care provider. Many initially view it as a stressor, but then once they are used to it become more comfortable with the process. The initial reason for the tube insertion will be a large determining factor on when it is removed. Sometimes it is temporary and sometimes they are more long-term.

Links and articles of interest: