Breastfeeding Equipment and Devices

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Most breastfeeding Moms run into some sort of issue along the way, but this does not mean you should just throw in the towel. Lactation consultants can help you achieve your breastfeeding goals if you encounter problems. Sometimes temporary intervention is necessary, but this does not mean that your breastfeeding success will be threatened. Supplementary and complementary feedings can be done with specific equipment and devices.

Alternative-Feeding Methods

Try your best to feed your baby at the breast. If difficulties appear, supplementary or complementary feedings can be provided by an alternative-feeding method. Attempt to bring the baby back to the breast for a feeding as soon as possible -- it is important to keep in mind that if the baby does not nurse often or energetically at the breast (or if you're not pumping), your breast milk supply will be greatly reduced. These alternative methods include:

  • Cup or Spoon feeding: Swaddle the baby and hold him in a semi-upright sitting position. Fill a 30 cc medicine cup or a spoon about half-full of expressed breast milk or formula. Place the cup or spoon up to the baby's mouth, touching the upper lip and tip, so the milk is just touching the baby's mouth. (Don't push down on the lower lip, though.) If necessary, you can drip a few drops in to the baby's mouth to begin. The baby will then either keep his tongue forward and drink little sips or lap from the cup or the spoon. (Remember to give the baby time to swallow, and don't just pour the milk into her mouth!) It is also important to keep the cup or the spoon in the same position, but refill as needed. Let the baby pace the feeding, and remember to pause for burping once in a while. Finally, keep in mind that you should not use this feeding method on an infant who isn't alert or is sleepy.
  • Finger feeding: This method may help to remedy an incorrect-sucking pattern. Before beginning this feed, wash your hands. Hold the baby semi-upright. Attach a 10 or 20 cc syringe (fill after it's attached) to a 5 Fr feeding tube. Insert your finger into his mouth with the pad-side up, gently moving it back to the soft palate. Slide the feeding tube into the corner of the baby's mouth (it will be next to your finger). He will draw the plunger down as he takes in the milk from the syringe. So as the baby sucks, he will be rewarded for proper sucking movements with little amounts of milk. If the baby keeps her tongue behind her lower gums, put some light downward pressure on the back of the tongue. (This may help to bring the tongue forward over the lower gums, which is critical for correct breastfeeding.) If the baby stops sucking, lightly stroke the roof of his mouth. Be mindful of swallowing and whether or not he is getting too much or too little milk.
  • Periodontal syringe feeding: Fill the syringe with milk. Put your finger pad-side up in the baby's mouth, placing the periodontal syringe (resting on your finger) barely inside his lips. Reward the sucking movements with little amounts of milk. (If the baby does not suck, do not give him any milk.) Be mindful of swallowing and whether or not he is getting too much or too little milk.
  • Eye dropper: Fill the eye dropper with milk. Put your finger pad-side up in the baby's mouth, placing the eye dropper (resting on your finger) barely inside the corner of her mouth. Reward the sucking movements with little squeezes of milk. (If the baby does not suck, do not give her any milk.) Be mindful of swallowing and whether or not she is getting too much or too little milk.
  • Supplemental Nursing System, although the word supplemental describes this system, it is actually a complementary feeding at the breast.

If you plan to do a complementary feeding at the breast, place the baby at the breast in the cradle or the football hold and help him to latch on.

Then slide a 5 Fr feeding tube or a periodontal syringe into the corner of the baby's mouth (or have a feeding-tube device, such as a Supplemental Nursing System, already in place.) Reward the sucking movements with little amounts of milk, and watch your baby for indications that the milk is coming too quickly or slowly.

There are many advantages to using an alternative-feeding method. Since these techniques mimic breastfeeding, they avoid nipple confusion, and the baby can pace the speed and amount they receive during feeds. They also make the baby's tongue come forward rather than back, which must be done to breastfeed correctly, and it may remedy tongue-sucking motions. Alternative feeding methods can be taught to mothers, fathers or any other family members wishing to feed the baby.

What are some of the reasons for using an alternative-feeding method?

The typical reasons are:

  • Nipple confusion
  • Low blood sugar
  • Refusal to latch on
  • Baby is jaundiced
  • Flat or inverted nipples
  • Breast surgery
  • Decreased breast milk supply
  • Insufficient urinary output
  • Neurological disorders
  • Mom is taking medication that is contraindicated with breastfeeding.

Working with a lactation consultant in any of these situations will help you tremendously. She will assess and evaluate the necessity for a supplementary or a complementary feeding, taking into consideration, of course, how you feel about the situation. She will then choose the appropriate method for you and your baby's needs and will ensure that it is most sufficient for the situation. Finally, the lactation consultant will teach the correct technique to you, your spouse, partner or any significant others (remember to involve your nanny!). She will also give help when you need it so that you can rest assured that your breastfeeding success will not be at risk.

Buying Breastfeeding Equipment and Devices

For feeding problems:

  • Breast Shells
  • Nipple Shields
  • Supplemental Nursing System -- there are also Starter SNS's for Moms who want to test the waters
  • Finger Feeder

Breast Pumps:

  • Manual: These are typically inexpensive and portable but require Moms to do the work extracting the milk, as there is no motor, so efficiency is questionable.
  • Electric: These are much more efficient than manual breast pumps. You can also rent them, which may or may not be covered by insurance, and they are well-serviced.

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