Mom holding baby with baby's feet facing the camera.

What Is a Supplementary Nursing System?

Lactation Aid Jan 5, 2021

A supplemental nursing system (SNS Feeder) is a feeding tube attached to a bottle containing formula or breast milk for supplementary feeding at the breast. This allows the mother to breastfeed her baby, even if the baby is being supplemented.

A lactation aid is a great way to get a mother to continue to benefit from the bonding experience that breastfeeding offers, even if she has no milk.

If a baby is going to be supplemented for any reason, it’s always best to use a nursing-supplementer, “SNS."

An SNS Feeder Can Be Used When…

Mom…

  • When an adoptive mother wants to breastfeed and needs to build a breast milk supply.
  • When a mother has a low milk supply and needs to supplement her baby with formula, the supplemental nursing system can aid lactation by allowing breast stimulation.
  • The mother has had breast surgery previously and cannot produce enough milk.
  • The mother has hypoplastic breasts.
  • The mother has flat or inverted nipples.
  • Some mothers look for a breast-shaped bottle that will prevent nipple confusion, but with a lactation aid, these bottles are unnecessary.
  • Feeding the baby extra supplements for any other reason.
newborn baby
Dad holding baby's tiny head in his hands - Photo by Jill Sauve / Unsplash

Baby…

Tips for Using a Supplemental Nursing System

  • Before using a lactation aid, you should speak to a lactation specialist. She might give helpful advice and will be able to show you exactly how to use it and latch on properly.
  • Try expressing milk for the lactation aid. If your milk supply is low,  you can pump in-between feedings to build your supply further. If you cannot produce milk, you can contact a milk bank, and they can provide free breast milk (you will only need to pay for the shipment). If breast milk is unavailable, formula may be used.

The How-To

  • Place the bottle so that you are comfortable. Some mothers put the bottle under their arms or hang the cord around their necks for comfort. You can place the bottle in the pocket of your shirt too. Find whatever works for you.
  • Make sure that your baby latches on correctly. This will ensure you get the best stimulation possible and help guard against sore, broken nipples.
  • The tube can be inserted at the corner of your baby’s mouth once latched on. The tube should be pointed slightly upward towards the roof of your baby’s mouth.
  • You will know when SNS breastfeeding is working when the milk starts to flow down the tube. You do not need to fill the tube with milk before giving it to your baby.
  • The feeding tube can be taped down on your breast if it gets in the way, but this is not always necessary.
  • You can hold the tube in place with your fingers.
  • NB ~ Do not cut the end of the feeding tube, as the end could hurt your baby if it’s sharp.


How to Increase the Flow of a Lact-Aid

  • Warm the breast milk or formula before adding it to the bottle (make sure it's not too warm). Warm milk flows faster.
  • Raise the bottle higher. The higher you raise it, the faster the milk will flow; be careful not to raise it too high, as your baby might choke if it is flowing too fast.
  • Using a larger feeding tube size can increase the flow.
  • Moving the feeding tube a little further into your baby's mouth.

Why Is a Lactation Aid Preferred Against Other Alternative Feeding Methods?

  • Babies and mothers get to practice breastfeeding.
  • The mother's milk supply is stimulated while her baby is being supplemented.
  • The baby is still receiving breast milk.
  • It prevents nipple confusion later on.
  • There are other benefits, like bonding and jaw development.

A list of other alternative feeding methods.

How Long Should It Take for Baby to Drink With a Lact-Aid?

Breastfeeding with a supplemental nursing aid takes roughly twenty to forty minutes. If it takes longer than an hour, you should ensure that the tube is positioned correctly and that your baby is latched on well.

How to Clean a Lact-Aid Device

Clean the bottle as per usual. The lactation aid tube can be rinsed with hot water immediately after use. Do not boil the tube.

Weaning From an SNS Feeding Device

  • Have patience. It could take a few weeks before your baby is completely weaned from the Supplemental nursing system.
  • You can start by breastfeeding without the SNS feeder and then offering the lact-aid afterward to see if your baby is still hungry.


Natural Ways to Increase Supply

The Advantages of Breastfeeding Premature Babies

Guide for latching premature babies.

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Tracy Behr

Mom of two, breastfeeding helper, and lover of all things natural! Studying a breastfeeding counselor course via Childbirth int. & plant-based nutrition via the Nutrition Inst.

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