If your baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), he or she may require acute medical treatment that could delay breastfeeding. There are a number of alternative feeding methods in the NICU. These include bottle feeding before breastfeeding is established, nasogastric/orogastric feeding, and total parenteral nutrition.

For information on bottle feeding before breastfeeding is established, see our ‘Breastfeeding, pumping breast milk, and bottle feeding’ page.

Nasogastric or Orogastric tube feeding

If your baby cannot feed on their own, a tube will be put through their nose (nasogastric, NG) or mouth (orogastric, OG) and go to the stomach. It is secured with tape. It is a way to feed your baby with expressed breast milk or formula and release built up air and gas in the stomach.

Total parenteral nutrition

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN) is an IV solution that contains nutrients to help your baby grow when they are not able feed in the other ways or needs added nutrition for growth and development. TPN contains water, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and trace minerals to meet your baby’s daily needs. TPN can be given via different types of lines that go into the baby’s veins: peripheral intravenous, umbilical venous catheter (UVC), or peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC).

If your baby is on TPN, they will require blood work a few times a week to make sure the correct amount was given.