This viral video has everyone asking: What is cup feeding?

It's a cute and controversial video that's been spreading through online breastfeeding groups, and it's got mamas talking.


In a clip that now has more than 26 million views, a newborn baby takes sips of milk not from a breast or bottle, but from a little cup that looks like a shot glass.

Plenty of Facebook commenters have wondered why a parent would attempt to feed such a young baby without a nipple, and whether the method used in the undated clip (that appears to have been shot in Turkey) is even safe.

The answer—much like feeding a baby—is simple and complicated all at the same time.

Cup feeding, as this method is called, is a real thing. It's safe when done properly and is sometimes suggested by medical professionals, particularly in locations where breast pumps or even bottles are not readily available. It's not an attempt to get a newborn to skip nipples entirely, but usually just a temporary way for parents to feed very young babies who are experiencing difficulty nursing.

As Motherly's Digital Education and Certified Nurse Midwife Diana Spalding notes, both the World Health Organization and Unicef recommend cup feeding for babies who are unable to breastfeed. "It's generally recommended when parents want to avoid using a bottle, to prevent nipple confusion, if the baby is going to be breastfed eventually," Spalding explains. "Some research has found that it is safe—though there is more spilling of milk when using a cup. Other studies, though, state that the evidence still isn't strong enough to be able to routinely recommend cup feeding for babies, so it's always best to check with your pediatrician first," she says.

Advocates for cup feeding hope to see more research on the method in the coming years, and suggest that a cup already in use in some low resource countries would be better for babies than the one in the viral video.

It's called the NIFTY (Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology) cup, and it was designed by experts at the University of Washington, Seattle Children's hospital, the international health innovation nonprofit PATH, and Laerdal Global Health, a not-for-profit company dedicated to saving the lives of mothers and babies.

Originally intended for use in countries where bottles, pumps and formula are not options, the team behind the NIFTY cup wanted to reduce spillage and get more breast milk into the mouths of hungry infants. The result is a silicone cup wide enough for mothers to hand express into, with a little reservoir that puts baby in charge of the pace of their feeding. It's proved invaluable in countries where moms and babies need it most, and one of the researchers behind the design, Christy McKinney, thinks it could benefit mothers and babies all over the world.

"A lot of times these things we create for low resource settings boomerang back here, to have benefit for us here in the United States. This is really a cup for infants with breastfeeding difficulties regardless of what the origin is," McKinney, an associate professor at the University of Washington told King5 News.

You can't go out and buy a NIFTY cup just yet, but the team behind it hopes that one day, mamas all over the world will have access to the design so that cup-fed babies don't have to drink out of the kind of spill-prone cup featured in the viral video.

We don't know why that now famous baby was being cup fed, but it is likely their parents were advised by medical professionals (the baby is wearing a hat with hospital branding, so they were probably either still in the hospital or had recently been discharged).

The video proves that when it comes to baby feeding, there's no one solution that works for every family.

There are many ways to get an infant the nutrients they need, and whatever way you and your medical providers decide on is the right way for you. Your baby probably won't get 26 million views, but they'll be just as cute and well fed as this little viral star, whether it's from a breast, bottle or even a cup.

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