Breastfeeding Supplementer – What Is It And How Does It Help?

Breastfeeding Supplementer - What Is It And How Does It Help?

There are various devices available that breastfeeding mothers may use for one reason or another. One device is called a breastfeeding supplementer.

This device allows a baby to feed from the breast and receive extra milk (the supplement) while doing so.

There are two types of breastfeeding supplementers available. One is Medela’s Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) and the other is the Lactaid.

A breastfeeding supplementer consists of a container (e.g. a bottle) and a fine piece of tubing. One end of the tubing goes into the container and the other gets taped to a mother’s nipple. The supplement (e.g. expressed breastmilk, donor milk or formula) is placed into the container and as the baby drinks from the breast, the tubing carries the supplement from the container to the baby’s mouth. In this way, a breastfeeding supplementer means a baby can feed from the breast and receive a supplement at the same time.

What Is A Breastfeeding Supplementer Used For?

So what are the reasons a breastfeeding supplementer may be used and what are the potential benefits?

Here are four reasons a breastfeeding supplementer may be used:

#1: To Induce Lactation Or Relactate

Inducing lactation means a woman tries to make milk without having ever done so before (e.g. for an adopted baby). Relactation is where a woman tries to make milk after having done so before.

If a woman is trying to induce lactation or relactate, she needs to increase her supply. Provided the baby will attach to the breast, a breastfeeding supplementer can provide him with a milk reward for sucking at the breast. In addition, the baby’s sucking at the breast can help a woman build a supply.

#2: With Premature Babies

Premature babies often are unable to get all the milk they need by feeding directly from the breast. Using a breastfeeding supplementer can help a premature baby get the extra milk they may need until their sucking is more mature and they are able to get all they need from the breast.

#3: If The Mother Has Low Supply

If a mother has a low supply and her baby isn’t getting enough milk, a breastfeeding supplementer can provide her baby with the extra milk he needs while he continues to feed from the breast. There are various reasons why a mother may have a low milk supply as you can read our articles for more information: 6 things that can cause low milk supply, do low milk supply issues run in families? and breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery. There are also ways to increase your supply as you can read about here.

#4: Babies With Special Needs

A breastfeeding supplementer may help various special-needs babies (e.g. those with Down syndrome or a cleft) be able to receive extra milk they may need while feeding from the breast.

Here are 5 benefits of using a breastfeeding supplementer:

#1: It Rewards A Baby’s Efforts

If a mother’s supply is low for example, a baby is less likely to want to suck at the breast, or at least not for as long. If he gets rewarded by receiving more milk while feeding at the breast, he is more likely to suck and suck for longer. This can help increase a mother’s supply.

#2: It Eliminates The Risk Of Nipple Confusion

If a breastfeeding supplementer is use to supplement a baby as opposed to a bottle, this can help eliminate the risk of nipple confusion and flow preference. Read more about nipple confusion and flow preference.

#3: The Baby Is In Control Of His Intake

When a baby feeds directly from the breast, he is in control of his intake. Whereas when he feeds from a bottle, he is in less control of his intake. For more information about this read here.

#4: Practice Makes Perfect

The more a baby feeds from the breast and the less he feeds from something else, the quicker he’ll become an expert at it. Babies, especially special needs babies, learn how to breastfeed by breastfeeding.

#5: It Allows Mothers To Breastfeed Even If She Has No Milk

A breastfeeding supplementer allows mothers to be able to breastfeed even if she makes no milk at all. Breastfeeding is much more than about nutrition. The act of breastfeeding is also nurturing and a relationship between a mother and her baby.

A breastfeeding supplementer does not work well for every mother and baby pair. It involves moderately complex learning and for a breastfeeding supplementer to work, it’s important that a baby can attach and suck at the breast. A baby with a very poor suck may not be able to get the milk through the tubing any better than he can get it from the breast.

If you have questions about a breastfeeding supplementer, contact an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor, La Leche League Leader or lactation consultant.

 
Last Updated: November 27, 2015

CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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