Mothers who are re-lactating, breastfeeding after breast surgery, nursing an adopted baby, or working to build a full milk supply may fear the dangers of introducing a bottle to their breastfed babies. Nipple confusion and flow preference associated with supplemental bottles can lead to early weaning. While there are strategies to minimize this, another option is for mothers to use one of two at-breast supplementers on the market (we recommend Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer). These devices deliver the necessary supplement to the baby without jeopardizing breastfeeding.
How Do At-Breast Supplementer Work?
Donated milk, formula, or whatever type of supplement the mother is using is poured into a container that is worn around the neck on a string. A thin tube runs from the container and lies alongside the nipple, sticking out just a little further than the tip. When a baby is latched, his sucking pulls milk from the supplementing device as well as from the breast. In this way, the mother’s milk supply is stimulated to its maximum, but the baby gets all the nutrition he needs.
Buying an At-Breast Supplementer
There are two major types of at-breast supplementing devices on the market, although homemade ones can be made using a bottle and tubing. Homemade devices can be prone to leakage, however, so it may be less frustrating to invest in one of the commercial products, especially if long-term supplementing is required.
- Medela Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). This system uses a BPA/DEHP-free plastic container and three different sizes of tubing to control the flow rate. Two tubes can be attached at the same time, one for each breast. The SNS works well for short- or long-term nursing assistance.
- Lact-aid Nursing Trainer.The Lact-aid system consists of disposable plastic bags attached to a head clamp with one small, thin tube attached to it. This device works on a vacuum so that the baby only extracts supplement from the bag when milk is not adequately flowing from the breast.
Which Supplementing Device to Choose?
The Medela is easier to clean and less expensive ($). Having a refillable container may be preferable to using disposable plastic bags for some mothers (less waste and no need to buy replacement bags).
On the other hand, the Lact-aid, with its collapsible bags is more discreet for nursing in public and easier to nurse with lying down. Some mothers like being able to prepare several units at once and keep them in the refrigerator for quick and easy access. A standard Lact-aid package, which includes only one unit, costs is rather cheap $. The Deluxe set, which includes 2, goes for about a little more $$. Additional Lact-aid units can be purchased individually or in a pack of 4.
There are many recommendations, suggestions, tips, and tricks for getting the best use out of an at-breast supplement. Many mothers have used these devices for a year or more with great success, but there is a learning curve, so new moms should be patient with themselves and their babies. For hands-on help, contact a board-certified lactation consultant. Lactation consultants can also help mothers learn additional ways to improve their milk supplies.