Researchers of Australia has advised to avoid using cups while feeding premature babies as it may not help them much.
Traditionally, hospitals and parents have used bottles or tubes to feed infants when breastfeeding was not possible. In some cases, hospitals have turned to cup feeding, in which a baby sips or laps milk in a small cup placed beneath the upper lip.
Anndrea Flint, a nurse manager at the Centre for Clinical Nursing of the Royal Women's Hospital in Brisbane, and other researchers examined four studies that involved pre-term infants, born at 29 to 35 weeks gestation.
"Parents and staff did not necessarily enjoy the experience of cup feeding," Flint said. Problems with the cup feeding included "the infant not managing cup feeds, spilling a lot, not being satisfied or taking too long to feed".
For several decades, developing countries have used cup feeding where tubes are not available or where bottle cleanliness is an issue. However, the practice has taken hold in developed countries as well, especially for infants needing supplemental nourishment.
The researchers said that cup feeding "cannot be recommended over bottle-feeding as a supplement to breastfeeding because it confers no significant benefit in maintaining breastfeeding beyond hospital discharge and carries the unacceptable consequence of a longer stay in the hospital".
For Flint, strategies aimed at prolonging breastfeeding should focus on regular "skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in and non-separation of mother and baby," as well as "non-introduction of supplemental feeds unless medically indicated," and education, reported health portal Medical News Today.
The review appears in the current issue of the Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration - an international organisation that evaluates research in all aspects of healthcare.
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