Cup Feeding a Baby – How To Do, Benefits and Alternatives

5 min read

Written by Rathnavalli Pradeep

Rathnavalli Pradeep

Cup Feeding a Baby

Feeding is extremely crucial in the initial years of a baby’s life. Different methods of feeding the baby are breastfeeding, formula milk, expressing breast milk, bottle-feed, and even cup feeding. Cup feeding for babies, as indicative of the name, is a method by which babies can be fed milk through a cup. It is appropriate for young babies, as it is an excellent way to feed them when they cannot be breastfed.

Though cup feeding a baby is not a very common type of feeding, yet it is a very effective method of feeding. This method comes into use either for babies who are premature or in cases where the mother cannot breastfeed. This method is very old and has been in use for many years now.

In This Article

Situations That Require Cup Feeding an Infant

Cup feeding is suitable for all babies, yet doctors recommend it only where breastfeeding is not an option. Certain situations where doctors recommend cup feeding for the babies are:

  • Cup feeding yields amazing results if the infant is weak, sick or premature and does not have sufficient strength to nurse.
  • In situations where the mother has inverted nipples, the baby is too sleepy, has latching problems, is tired, etc., feeding issues do arise. Cup feeding in such scenarios is an excellent option.
  • If breastfeeding does not work in the first six weeks, cup feeding can work wonders.
  • This option works well also if the mother is traveling, undergoing engorgement, or soreness of the breast and the baby must drink expressed milk.

Top 6 Advantages of Cup Feeding a Baby

Feeding the baby through a cup or bottle can be the same. Yet advantages give an upper hand to cup feed over breastfeeding

1. No Interference With Direct Breastfeeding

One of the major benefits of cup feeding is that the baby will not have nipple confusion. Bottle-fed babies suck through the nipples, which are easier than the breast nipples. This creates confusion and even makes the baby reluctant to latch on to the breast if required.

2. Prevention of Abnormal Development of Jaws

A baby being fed with a bottle can face teeth and jaw development issues. Since the milk sucking process of the bottle and the breast differ from each other, it leads to bad performance of functions like eating, breathing, speech, etc. Cup feeding however has no such issues that can hamper the oral development of the infant.

3. Cup Feeding is Safer Than Other Processes

When babies start the process of teething, they gnaw on whatever they can reach, and the nipples of the milk bottle is one such thing. In this process, they can end up biting a small piece of the nipple, which is harmful and can even result in choking. Bottle feeding also leads to tooth decay. Whereas, cup feeding has no such issues.

[Read : Infant Choking]

4. Cup Feeding Prevents Overfeeding the Infant

Cup feeding needs more effort for the baby to be fed. During the feeding process, the cup has to be close to the mouth of the infant and in a tilted position so that milk can touch the lips and the baby can take it to his mouth. This process prevents the dripping of milk as well. The baby stops taking milk when not hungry. So no one can overfeed, as the baby clearly indicates fullness by refusing to drink more milk.

5. Elimination of a Special Cup When Babies Grow Up

After the babies grow up and start using a cup, cup feeding in the initial days helps them as they can drink it without much effort compared to other babies who have not been cup fed.

6. Cup Feeding is Not Expensive

When the infant has to be cup fed, there is no hassle of buying expensive bottles and sterilizers. Cups can be of any size or material. Moreover, they are portable, easy to clean.

[Read : Different Types of Formula Milk For Your Baby]

Disadvantages of Cup Feeding For Babies

Cup feeding may have many benefits but still its limitations that cannot be overlooked.

  • Babies tend to choke or spit if the cup feeding is not done properly.
  • More milk gets spilled if feeding is not done properly.
  • Cup feeding is time-consuming, and using this method for a longer time will change the baby’s preference from being breastfed to cup feeding.

Process of Cup Feeding an Infant

Healthcare experts teach the process of cup feeding a baby with the help of demonstrations. It is important to consult a healthcare professional in case of any confusion while cup feeding. It is also important to be sure that the baby is not asleep, is in an alert and upright position while being fed. Doctors also advise never to feed a baby when it is lying flat on its back.

The correct process to cup feed a baby is given as under:

  • Start with a soft cup that is easy for the baby to reach.
  • Tie a bib so that the milk does not spoil your baby’s outfit
  • Fill half the cup with breast milk or warm formula.
  • Place the baby in an upright position in the lap or in the arms of the mother.
  • Wrap the baby so that they do not knock the cup from the mother’s hand.
  • Place the cup close to the lower lip.
  • Tap the cup softly so that the milk can easily reach the baby’s mouth.
  • Very soon, the baby will get used to sipping the milk from the rim of the cup with the help of their tongue.
  • The milk pace should be very slow, and it is also important to give pauses to the baby when he is trying to swallow.
  • Let the baby take the feed naturally, no need to exert pressure on the lower lip of the baby.
[Read : Breast Milk or Formula Milk – A Guide For Parents]

Alternatives to Cup Feeding

Apart from cup feeding, some alternative methods of feeding an infant are:

  • A syringe is an effective and easier way of feeding the infant when compared to a cup.
  • Paladai is an ancient way of feeding babies. This method includes a small cup with spout for feeding a smaller quantity of milk and is as good as feeding with a syringe.
  • Teaspoons are also an alternative to feeding the baby. These options work well for babies who are calm and less fussy. They are also used for colostrum feeding in the initial days after the baby is born.

When used the right way, cup feeding is an effective way to feed a newborn baby if breastfeeding is not an option. Always take the advice of your doctor or a lactation consultant before introducing cup feeding for your infant.


1. Is it Safe to Cup Feed a Newborn Baby?

Cup feeding is safe right from the time the baby is born, and can be used for both the mother’s milk and the formula. Any open cup having a smooth surface can be used to feed.

2. What is the Appropriate Time to Cup Feed the Baby?

The babies can easily learn to use a cup by the time they are 6 months to a year. The time is appropriate when the baby can sit upright without support. Also, encourage the baby to use a cup rather than a bottle, reducing his feeding time as well.

3. Can I Feed the Baby with Formula in a Cup?

The baby gets formula in the sippy cups. This transition from a normal to a sippy cup can happen by the time the baby is 6 months old. Usage of sippy cups also leads to better oral hygiene and prevents speech issues as well.

4. What Cups Should the Baby Use?

The dentists recommend using sippy cups or no-spill cups for the babies. Using open cups or beakers is preferred. It is natural for a baby to spill the drink. Still, these are the best options for your little one.

Read Also: Pumping And Expressing Breast Milk

Rathnavalli Pradeep,BE in Computer Science from Bharathidasan university, Tirucharapalli.

Read more.

Responses (0)

Please check a captcha

Want curated content sharply tailored for your exact stage of parenting?

Discover great local businesses around you for your kids.

Get regular updates, great recommendations and other right stuff at the right time.


Our site uses cookies to make your experience on this site even better. We hope you think that is sweet.