|Making an at-chest supplementer is easy and cheap.
Using an at-chest (at-breast) supplementer is a great way to feed your baby if you are unable to produce all of the milk he or she requires. This method is completely supportive of the nursing relationship, and does not involve your baby latching on to any artificial nipples, such as bottle nipples. As wonderful as it is, this kind of supplementer can be brutally hard to use at first. I've been using one for over eighteen months, so I'll share some tips!
First, let me explain what it is. All the different versions consist of a container to hold the supplement and a long, narrow tube. One end of the tube goes into the supplement, and the other end is placed right by your nipple. Your baby latches onto both the tube and your nipple simultaneously, drawing supplement from the container and getting all the milk that you are producing, too.
What's great about it? Using an at-chest supplementer allows you to do all feedings at your own chest. This is amazing for your nursing relationship and all the bonding that comes with it. It's also important for promoting normal jaw development in the infant – the physical action of chestfeeding develops a baby's muscles differently than bottlefeeding does. Using the supplementer helps you produce more milk, too, because even at times when your baby is only receiving supplement and you are not producing any milk, your chest tissue is being stimulated to make more. For those who produce little to zero milk, using the supplementer makes it possible to still have a nursing relationship.
The main difference between the homemade and commercial systems is cost. The Lact-Aid is $48.75 or $62.50, depending on whether you get the deluxe or standard model. The Supplemental Nursing System (SNS), made by Medela, was $42.99 on Amazon when I checked at the time of writing. It should be noted that Medela is a company that violates the World Health Organization's code on the marketing of bottles and artificial nipples. Unfortunately, its product name, SNS, is often incorrectly used as a generic name for a supplementer. You can make your own supplementer for the cost of any baby bottle and nipple and a $5.00 gavage tube. If you use this system in the long-term, you will end up spending a fair bit on tubes. They can be bought in bulk for about $1.00 a piece, and most people replace them once per week (or when they get too stiff to use) – so, you could spend $52 on tubes if you use the homemade supplementer for one year. I've been told by several people who used an SNS or Lact-Aid for over a year that both systems hold up very well to wear and tear and rarely need replacement parts.
With both the SNS and the Lact-Aid, the supplement container hangs around your neck. I like my homemade version because I can put the container down beside me on a table or hold it between my knees – I hated the idea of something relatively heavy dangling from my neck. I also like being able to have a decent amount of supplement on hand. The containers of the SNS (re-usable) and Lact-Aid (disposable bags) are smaller than most baby bottles. My number one reason for using my homemade version is that it is simpler – it has only three parts (bottle, nipple, and tube).
|Moulding the chest tissue and positioning the tube
There's a lot to have to juggle between latching your newborn and placing a tube. This is how I do it: I get my baby in position and latch him first without the tube (otherwise he gets too antsy waiting for me to have everything ready). Then I take the end of the tube and get it near the end of my nipple. I briefly un-latch my baby. I use my thumb and middle finger to mould my chest tissue into a shape that my baby can latch to, and use my index finger to position the tube so that the end of it is in line with the tip of my nipple. The tube comes from above my nipple so that it points to the roof of my baby's mouth when he latches. I slip my index finger out of the way just as he is latching on and then I hold the tube in place for an extra second or two until the supplement is flowing up the tube. Some people tape the tube to their chest, but this didn't work for me. The tube would always flip in the wrong direction when I tried to mould my chest tissue for my baby to latch.
|About to latch
Have you used a supplementer? Do you have any additional tips to share that we should know about?