Baby feeding syringe bottles

How To Syringe Feed A Baby? 10 Steps To Follow

The technique is helpful for babies who can’t suck, but doing it properly is important.


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Feeding a baby with a syringe is an inevitable choice when a baby can’t nurse from the breast. Generally, babies are born with an innate ability to suckle and consume breast milk. However, there may be various reasons why a baby can’t do it. In such instances, feeding a baby with a syringe can help them consume breast milk.

Breast milk is vital for babies as it helps them stay nourished and hydrated. Besides, it provides them antibodies that help against illnesses (1). Hence, syringe feeding is recommended until the baby starts breastfeeding naturally.

Read this post to know about syringe feeding, when it is needed, steps to feed your baby with a syringe, and precautions to observe.

What Is Syringe Feeding?

Syringe feeding allows the baby to consume the mother’s milk through specialized infant feeding syringes. The breast milk is expressed into a sterile vessel and drawn into a feeding syringe. The technique is quite commonly used to feed colostrum, which is very low in volume, to newborns unable to breastfeed.

During syringe feeding, the tip of the syringe is placed on the side of the baby’s mouth to enable feeding. Some syringes have an attached fine feeding tube, which can be inserted into the baby’s mouth. The type of syringe used may vary depending on several factors, including the doctor’s recommendation, your baby’s health, and reasons behind the baby’s inability to breastfeed.

Related: 7 Effective Home Remedies To Prevent Baby’s Mouth Ulcers

When Is Syringe Feeding Done?

Syringe feeding is practiced when breastfeeding is not possible because the baby cannot suckle or the mother cannot breastfeed. Below are certain scenarios where syringe feeding may be considered (2).

  • Preterm babies with poor primitive reflexes
  • Drowsy baby due to labor-inducing drugs
  • Babies recovering from birth interventions
  • Babies born with medical conditions or birth defects, such as cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Baby is unable to latch on the breast temporarily
  • Mother is unable to feed her baby immediately

Related: Lip Tie In Babies: Causes, Signs, Complications & Treatment

How To Feed A Newborn With A Syringe?

Below are the steps involved in feeding a baby with a syringe (3) (4).

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water to ensure hand hygiene.

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Express breast milk in a sterile container, vessel, or flask.
  1. Hold and wrap your baby securely while settling into a comfortable position. You may use a pillow to support the baby.

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Take a clean infant feeding syringe recommended by the doctor. Draw the milk, press the plunger to remove the air bubble, and place the syringe aside. Ensure the feeding nozzle/tip does not touch any surface.
  1. Use your little finger to stimulate the baby’s lips and encourage them to open their mouth.

Image: iStock

  1. Put your finger inside the mouth such that the pad of the finger touches the baby’s palate (roof of the mouth). The baby will begin to suck at the finger.
  1. Once you sense the baby sucking at the finger, use the other hand to gently insert the syringe’s tip along the side of the baby’s mouth. Do not push it deep. The syringe should be between the gum and the cheek or between the side of the baby’s tongue and your finger.

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Gently push the plunger so that the milk flows into the baby’s mouth.
  1. Push the plunger again each time the baby completes a sucking motion, that is, swallows the milk. You must push no more than 0.2 milliliters of milk at a time
  1. Stop pushing the milk when the baby stops making the feeding/sucking motion. Resume once the baby begins. Continue feeding until the baby stops.

In most cases, babies who are syringe-fed may be required to stay in the hospital for extra time. Therefore, the mother may find support from a midwife, nurse, or lactation consultant who can guide and assist her during syringe feeding.

Related: Signs Of Epstein Pearls In Newborn, Causes, And Treatment

Tips And Precautions When Syringe Feeding

Here are some useful tips and precautions to safely syringe-feed your baby (5) (6).

  1. Always use your little finger to open the baby’s mouth. Using another finger may cause some babies to gag.
  1. There are several types of infant feeding syringes with respective accouterments. Most do not hold more than one milliliter of milk. Ask your doctor the precise type of syringe and tubes you may need to feed the baby. Do not pick a syringe without consulting the doctor first.
  1. Make sure you decide the place and your position to hold the baby securely before you begin. It is especially necessary when you are feeding the baby alone.

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Do not place the baby flat in your lap since it may cause them to choke. Instead, place them in a partially upright position.

Related: Baby Choking On Breastmilk: Why Does It Happen And What To Do

  1. Always use a sterile container to collect the expressed milk. Thaw any frozen milk before drawing it into a syringe.
  1. Avoid using the syringe to feed medicines since the drug may react with traces of milk inside the syringe. Maintain a separate feeding syringe to administer medicines to the baby.
  1. Flush the syringe and tubing with warm water after use. Clean it with soapy water and let it air dry. Thorough washing with soap and water is often sufficient to sterilize certain infant feeding syringes.
  1. Some syringes are only meant for a fixed number of feeds. Check it on the packaging or ask your doctor about it.
  1. Purchase sealed infant feeding syringes and tubes that are pre-sterilized. If they are not pre-sterilized, look for information on the packaging or contact the manufacturer to learn about appropriate sterilization techniques.
  1. Some syringes could be dishwasher-safe. You may sterilize them in a dishwasher. If the manufacturer recommends it, you may disassemble parts of the syringe, place them in a pot of water, and boil for five minutes to sterilize it.

1. Is a syringe feeding better than a bottle?

Syringe feeding could be better than bottle-feeding for preterm infants as it possesses less risk of infections. Feeding preterm infants through syringes might also avoid nipple confusion, a common occurrence in bottle-fed preterm infants. Syringe feeding also requires more parental involvement, which might benefit the infant (7).

2. Can I syringe feed formula?

The syringe feeding method is a versatile technique not just limited to delivering breast milk to babies. It can also be used to feed formula to infants. But care must be taken that the formula is dissolved and does not block the syringe nozzle.

3. What are alternative feeding techniques?

Alternative feeding techniques are used when the baby cannot consume milk directly from the breasts. These methods include syringe feeding, hand feeding, bottle feeding, cup feeding, and spoon feeding. Alternative feeding techniques are used until the baby starts to breastfeed successfully (8).

Feeding a baby with a syringe may become a necessity if they have latching issues, congenital facial abnormalities, or if the mother is not in a condition to breastfeed. This technique requires sterilized extraction equipment and syringes. It is recommended to consult a medical professional or a lactation consultant to learn the procedure of syringe feeding. They will also help you determine the right syringe feeding type for your baby. Ensure to maintain proper personal hygiene, position yourself and your baby comfortably, and start and stop feeding your baby based on their sucking reflex cues. Also, remember to clean the equipment after the feeding and replace them if needed.

Key Pointers

  • Syringe feeding employs specialized infant feeding syringes to feed the mother’s milk to the baby.
  • It is considered in preterm births and other conditions when the baby cannot suckle or the mother cannot nurse.
  • Always use a sterile container and a separate feeding syringe to collect and administer expressed breast milk.
  • After each use, flush the syringe and tubing with warm water and sterilize it.

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Breastfeeding; World Health Organization
2. Syringe feeding your baby; St Vincent’s Private Hospital
3. Breastfeeding: Finger feeding using a fine tube or syringe; King Edward Memorial Hospital
4. Syringe and cup feeding your baby; NHS UK
5. Using a Syringe to Feed Your Child Formula or Breastmilk; Seattle Children’s Hospital
6. How to Clean, Sanitize, and Store Infant Feeding Items; CDC
7. Birgül Say et al; Evaluation of Syringe Feeding Compared to Bottle Feeding for the Transition from Gavage Feeding to Oral Feeding in Preterm Infants; The Journal of Pediatric Research.
8. Alternative methods of feeding your baby: syringe, spoon, cup and bottle feeding; NHS University Hospital Southampton

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Rohit Garoo did MBA from Osmania University and holds a certificate in Developmental Psychology from The University of Queensland. The zoologist-botanist turned writer-editor has over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics...
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Dr. Dur Afshar Agha is a consultant pediatrician with decades of experience in various medical facilities both in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. She has headed the Department of Preventive Pediatrics at the prestigious, Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health in Pakistan and is a life member of the Pakistan Paediatric Association. She has also completed her Post Graduate Program...
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Syringe and Cup Feeding – Oasis Lactation Services

September 13, 2013 oasislactationservices 0 Comments

Bottles may be the most common way we see babies fed, but aren’t the only way to feed a baby off the breast. Some mothers want to avoid bottle preference or choose an alternate feeding method to help the baby get back to the breast. Please visit this article on proper techniques for bottle feeding human milk.

Syringe feeding is often employed by families whose babies need short term supplementation while they develop breastfeeding skills. Syringe feeding is sometimes done in tandem with oral exercises under the supervision of an LC, SLP, pediatrician, or other specialist. Oasis Lactation Services prefers curved tipped periodontal syringes for this feeding method. Theses syringes are generally sold in 10-12 cc volume, which is about 1/3 ounce.  It is important to know if the syringes you are using are precision measured or an estimate.

General Guidelines for Syringe Feeding Your Baby

  1. Fill syringe with expressed breast milk (or formula if supplementation is required).
  2. Sit baby upright on your lap with baby’s head supported, at a 45 degree angle or taller. Baby should not be flat on back.
  3. Stroke baby’s face to stimulate gape response. Gently drag finger down from tip of baby’s nose to the chin. When baby opens wide, offer finger to suck, pad side up.
  4. Once baby begins to suck, introduce syringe to the corner of the mouth. Point the tip of the syringe into the cheek. The tip is rigid. Do not allow the tip of the syringe to touch the gums.
  5. Responsively depress plunger as baby is sucking on finger. The baby is only able to swallow small amounts. The baby needs time between pulses of milk to coordinate breathing. One pulse of milk should be followed by a swallow and two or three sucks.

Cup feeding for supplementation off the breast may be a good choice for several reasons. Cups are easy to sterilize unlike rubber nipples. Cup technology is available around the world in all cultures. Cup feeding teaches baby oral skills that he will use for a lifetime. Babies who are cup feeding learn tongue extension, which is a useful skill for drawing the breast deep into the mouth to nurse.

General Guidelines for Cup Feeding Your Baby

  1. Sit baby upright on your lap with baby’s head supported, at a 45 degree angle or taller. Baby should not be flat on back.
  2. Use a small medicine cup or shot glass.
  3. Place the edge of the cup gently on baby’s lower lip.
  4. Bring the liquid to baby’s lower lip so baby will lap it up like a cat drinking milk from a bowl. Do not pour the liquid in baby’s mouth
  5. It is important to maintain the level of the liquid as best as possible so baby can continually lap it up.
  6. Go slowly as the two of you learn how to do this. Eventually, this can become a very fast and efficient way of feeding until baby learns to take the breast, and this is a good method to use to avoid artificial nipples and teats. This method also encourages tongue extension which is helpful training for babies who have had tongue tie revision or therapy for shallow latching.


alternative ways.

. Articles to help mom

H Non-bottle supplementation occurs in mothers who want to continue breastfeeding but are forced to supplement with formula or expressed milk for various reasons, for example:

  • Mom needs to go away, and another adult will feed the baby.
  • Mom is ill and is taking medications that are incompatible with GW (breastfeeding).
  • It is necessary to give a medicine diluted in milk.
  • Mom has a severe cracked nipple and breastfeeding is very painful.
  • The baby is not gaining weight, and the pediatrician prescribed supplementary feeding with formula.
  • Any other reason why a baby would need to be supplemented from a non-breastfeed.

The article will be useful to mothers who want to return or maintain breastfeeding after the introduction of supplementary feeding.

Why not a bottle

There is no unequivocal recommendation to give non-bottle supplements. But there is a threat that after the bottle the baby will refuse the breast or stop latching on properly.

For some children, it is enough to kiss the nipple once to start acting up at the breast. After all, milk from the breast does not flow as quickly and not as evenly as from a bottle. It does not mean at all that this will happen to you, but there is such a possibility.

Methods of supplementary feeding by degree of closeness to breastfeeding

Consider the pros and cons of the methods known to us, which are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and breastfeeding consultants.

Breast feeding systems

You give your baby a breast and bring a soft catheter to the nipple, through which pumped milk or formula is supplied. At the opposite end of the catheter is a container of milk. It can be a syringe or a bottle, or a glass - which is more convenient for mom. Medela has a ready-to-use breastfeeding system. This option is only suitable for babies who can breastfeed. On the Internet you will find videos on how to build such a system yourself or use a ready-made one. Google it.


The undoubted advantage of the breastfeeding system is that the baby suckles at the breast. He not only receives milk "from the breast", but also stimulates the mammary glands.


You have to get used to using it. The container and catheter will have to be washed or changed frequently, interrupt feeding, or prepare milk in advance for supplementary feeding. You will spend some time learning how to secure the catheter to your chest.

Finger feeding

Very similar to the previous version, only instead of the breast, the child sucks your finger, to which the catheter is attached. Instead of a catheter, you can give milk to the corner of your mouth from a syringe without a needle. Drop by drop. It is better to choose a larger finger, usually the middle or index finger, so that the baby opens his mouth wide.


The baby has skin contact while suckling and feels the warmth of your finger. In the case of using a catheter, you can hold the baby in your arms, as with breastfeeding.


If you are syringe feeding, some of the milk will spill out at first. Stock up on stock. If a stranger is feeding the child, then it is advisable to use a glove or abandon this method so as not to create an additional burden on the intestines with an unfamiliar microflora.

Cup feeding

WHO recommends this method. You pour milk into a small cup. Even a plastic bottle cap will do. Tilt it so that the milk does not spill out, but stands at the edge. And put this edge on the baby's lower lip. He will begin to stick out his tongue and slowly lap up milk. You gradually tilt the cup so that the milk is always available to him. It is important not to pour milk into the child's mouth, otherwise it will choke.

With this method of feeding, you need to keep the baby as upright as possible.


The child eats milk at his own pace. He may take a break from lapping, as well as from breast sucking. At this point, it is important to continue to hold the cup on his lip. The kid will continue when he is ready.


Milk is likely to spill, prepare with a margin.

Spoon feeding

The principle is the same. Instead of a cup, you use a spoon, which you serve with a thin or wide edge - as you like - on the child's lower lip. The difference is that the spoon will have to be refilled more often. Medela has a special feeding spoon. The principle of its application is the same, but it is filled from the attached container with a light touch. Choose what is more convenient.

Syringe feeding

Give milk from a syringe without a needle to the baby's cheek. It is important to give it by the cheek and drop by drop so that the child does not choke. Take a syringe of at least 10 ml. Try different manufacturers. The piston should move as easily and without jerks as possible. To make it possible for you to smoothly supply milk, grab the syringe with your little finger and ring finger, and press the plunger with your thumb.


Milk almost does not spill with this method if you are not in a hurry.


The syringe will need to be refilled frequently if the amount of supplementation is significant.


In the minuses of all methods, one important point is deliberately not indicated - such supplementary feeding takes significantly more time than supplementary feeding from a bottle. And this is good. After all, the baby also sucks for a long time. Maybe 20 minutes, maybe an hour. And your supplementation will take the same amount of time. depending on its volume. You have to be ready for this.

You will definitely succeed!

Tube and Bottle Feeding Technique for Premature Babies

Manipulation - Premature Baby Feeding Technique (tube and bottle)

Tube feeding a premature baby.

- providing adequate nutrition to the child;
- to provide a newborn baby with the necessary amount of food when natural nutrition through the mouth is not possible.
Indications: lack of swallowing and sucking reflex Contraindications: none
Equipment sterile probe, 2 syringes in a tray, cotton balls, tweezers, bottle or beaker, 0.02% furacilin solution "clean rags", a tray for used material, a pot of water.
Nurse working in a mask!
Preparing for the procedure
1. Calculate the required amount of milk,
2. Wash your hands with antiseptic soap,
3. Pour milk into a clean bottle,
4. Take a small saucepan or a metal mug:
- cover the bottom of the pan with a gauze cloth,
- pour hot water into the pan t-60 degrees,
5. Place the bottle in the pan so that the water level covers the level of milk in the bottle,
6. Milk temperature for the bottle is 40-45 degrees. Determine the temperature of the milk by placing a few drops on the skin of the back of the hand or the inner surface of the forearm,
0123 8. Wash hands and put on gloves right hand.
10. Draw milk into the syringe:
- take the probe in your left hand,
- open the probe,
- fill the probe with milk,
- disconnect the syringe, put it in the tray,
- close the probe with a plug or clip.
11. Soak the end of the probe in milk or borax in glycerin.
Performing procedure
12. Hold the probe in your right hand at a distance of 7-8 cm from the end,
13. Insert the probe into the nasal passage and advance the probe to the mark.
REMEMBER! Do not start feeding your baby without making sure that the tube is in the stomach! Control your child's breathing and skin color!
14. Open the tube and connect the syringe with the rest of the milk to it:
- inject milk slowly into the stomach
- remove the syringe and put it in tray
- close the probe
15. Draw 1-2 ml of boiled water into another syringe:
- open the probe,
- connect the syringe to the probe and rinse the probe with boiled water,
- disconnect the syringe and put it in the tray,
- close the probe.
End of procedure.
16. Fix the probe to the cheek with adhesive tape until the next feeding,
17. Place the baby in the crib on the flank.

Bottle feeding.

Indications: the presence of a swallowing and sucking reflex in a premature baby, artificial and mixed feeding.
Contraindications: no sucking reflex
Equipment: changing kit, thin diaper, pot of hot water, clean bottle, container, clean nipples, tweezers in a glass, cotton balls, container "1% chloramine solution", container "clean rags" ", tray for used material.
Nurse working in a mask!
Preparing for the procedure
1. Calculate the required amount of milk,
2. Wash your hands,
3. Take a clean bottle,
4. Fill the bottle with milk:
- close the bottle with a sterile cotton ball.
5. Take a saucepan:
- put a rag on the bottom,
- pour hot water t-60 degrees into the saucepan.
6. Place the bottle in the saucepan so that the water level covers the milk level. Time 10 minutes.
7. Remove the bottle from the saucepan:
- place the ball in the waste tray.
8. Use tweezers to pick up a nipple with a small hole from the "clean nipples" container.
Note: Make a hole in the nipple with a red-hot needle.
9. Put the teat on the bottle.
10. Check the size of the opening in the nipple and the temperature of the mixture by turning the bottle upside down with the nipple and putting a few drops on the skin of the back of the hand or the inner surface of the forearm.
11. Place the bottle on the table.
12. Prepare the child for feeding:
- swaddle,
- wash the nose with cotton flagella,
- wash the child with cotton balls, moistening them with 0.02% solution of furacilin.
Performing procedure
13. Hold the child on the left arm,
14. Sit comfortably on a chair,
15. Place the diaper on the baby's chest,
16. Take the bottle in your right hand from below, lifting it at a 45 degree angle so that the neck is
constantly filled with formula.
17. The baby should tightly cover the nipple with his lips End of the procedure.
18. Remove the pacifier from the baby's mouth and place the bottle on the table.
19. Wipe the baby's lips with a diaper:
- hold the baby upright for a few minutes to prevent spitting up
- put the baby in the crib on the side.
Infection control:
1. Used teats are soaked for 2 hours in 1% solution of soda or mustard (50.0 per 10 liters of water), then washed under running water, boiled in a saucepan for 10 minutes, stored in a clean, closed container from where they are taken with clean tweezers.

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