Breastfeeding Success in the Cup-fed Premature Infant
Food is a natural human need. Human breastmilk provides basic nutrients, enzymes, and antibodies needed to sustain life. Though life may be viable early outside the womb, it can be a challenge to maintain. Premature infants, those born under 37 weeks of gestation, often have underdeveloped body systems, premature sucking reflexes, and higher risks for cardiac and respiratory complications. Sucking from a nipple requires coordination of breathing and swallowing. According to Jadcherla (2019), “preterm infants begin to learn around 32 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA) how to coordinate sucking and swallowing with breathing, and develop adaptive aerodigestive reflexes to prevent reflux and protect their airways.” Cup feeding from a caregiver is an alternative to other means of infant feeding such as bottle feeding. Cup feeding can be user friendly with proper training. It involves a small cup, ideally with a spout on the edge. It supports better latch when the infant is introduced to the breast, decreases the incidence of nipple confusion, and is cost effective for mothers living in underdeveloped countries (Yilmaz, Caylan, Karacan, Bodur, and Gokcay, 2014). The purpose of this Evidence Based Practice brief is to compare cup feeding to bottle feeding and evaluate breastfeeding outcomes in premature infants. The findings may assist parents, caregivers, and nurses in using early feeding techniques, such as cup feeding, that will support exclusive breastfeeding at hospital discharge.