Nursing Supplementer Devices

An Alternative Feeding Method for Breastfed Babies

What is a Nursing Supplementer Device?

A nursing supplementer is an alternative feeding method used to provide additional nutrition to supplement the diet of a breastfed baby while the baby is at the breast. As the baby breastfeeds, he is able to draw milk from the breast and the supplementer at the same time.

This tool consists of a container filled with your expressed breast milk, donor breast milk or formula. The container is worn around your neck, and a tube connected to the container is taped to your breast so that its tip reaches the end of your nipple. When the baby latches on and begins to suck, the supplement will be delivered into his mouth. This system allows a baby to breastfeed even if there is little or no milk being produced. If lactation is possible, a supplementer helps to stimulate the production of more milk while providing nutrition to the baby. Then, as your milk supply begins to increase, you can gradually decrease the amount of the supplement until the baby no longer needs it.

A Nursing Supplementer is Very Useful in the Following Situations:

A Low Milk Supply: A supplementer allows you to continue to breastfeed your baby when your supply is low. It provides additional milk while the baby sucks and stimulates your breasts to help increase your milk supply.

Relactation: If you have stopped nursing and would like to begin again, this tool can help re-build your supply.

Adoption: A supplementer can be used with medications and herbs to help induce lactation if you would like to breastfeed your adopted baby.

Breast Surgery: For some women, breastfeeding after breast surgery can be a challenge. Certain types of breast surgery can negatively affect the milk supply. A supplementer lets you breastfeed your baby while you try to increase your supply.

A Premature Baby: When your preemie is able to begin breastfeeding, this is a great tool to ensure your baby is getting enough milk to gain weight while learning to breastfeed.

Sucking Issues: Babies with a weak suck, cleft lip and cleft palate, or those that are tongue-tied may have trouble sucking. A supplementer can help them improve their suck while rewarding them with milk as they practice.

Poor Weight Gain: If your baby isn't gaining weight, the pediatrician may want you to supplement the baby. A supplementer will allow you to continue to breastfeed while you are providing the additional nutritional support.

When using a supplementer for the first time, it is recommended that you have someone with experience using this device help you until you get used to it. Your doctor, a lactation consultant or a local La Leche group can provide support, encouragement and assistance.

Homemade Devices

It is possible to make a homemade supplementer with a baby bottle and a feeding tube. However, a homemade device can be very dangerous. The milk from the supplementer should not flow continuously into the baby's mouth—it should be drawn into the mouth by the baby with each suck similar to drinking from a straw. If the milk is allowed to continuously flow from the supplementer into the baby's mouth, the baby could aspirate the milk into his lungs. This is a very serious situation. Before using a homemade device, talk to a lactation consultant or your doctor for assistance.

Nursing supplementers are also available to purchase. Medela and Lact-Aid are two companies that make easy to use supplementation devices.

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Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)

Medela Supplemental Nursing System
Courtesy of Amazon

Medela's SNS is BPA-free with an adjustable flow that can be changed to accommodate the needs of your baby. The hard plastic supplement container that hangs around your neck is washable and reusable. It has two tubes that can be placed at each breast, which makes it easy to switch sides during a feeding.

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2
Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer System

Lact-Aid Deluxe Nursing Trainer System
Courtesy of Amazon

The Lact-Aid system is BPA- and latex-free. It uses pre-sterilized, disposable nurser bags, so there is no container to clean after feedings: use it once and throw it away. There is only one tube, however, so if you are switching sides during a feeding, the tube needs to be moved over to the other breast.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

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