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J Hum Lact. 2002 Feb;18(1):13-20; quiz 46-9, 72.

Cup-feeding for preterm infants: mechanics and safety.

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Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Cup-feeding is recommended for breastfed preterm infants to avoid artificial nipples. However, the oral mechanisms used in cup-feeding, or its safety and efficacy, have not been described. The authors measured sipping, breathing, SaO2, and volume of intake during 15 cup-feeding sessions for 8 infants (mean gestational age at birth was 30.6 weeks). Mean duration of sipping bursts and pauses was 3.6 seconds and 28.1 seconds, respectively. Mean breathing rate during bursts and pauses was similar (46.2 +/- 24.3 vs 45.7 +/- 17.7, respectively), with SaO2 > or = 90% during all bursts. Mean duration of cup-feedings was 15.2 +/- 3.9 minutes (range, 11.0-23.3), whereas mean volume of intake was only 4.6 +/- 2.2 mL (range, 1.5-8). For the 15 sessions, 38.5% of milk taken from the cup was recovered on the bib. Although infants remain physiologically stable, cup-feeding has questionable efficacy and efficiency. Differentiating between actual intake versus spillage of milk merits attention.

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