A Supplemental Nursing System was first developed to help with adoptive nursing. Mothers wanted to bring in, or bring back milk supply, also known as inducing lactation or re-lactation.
If a baby is able to latch and feed well at the breast, that suckling action is sometimes all that is needed to promote milk supply, while giving them the extra milk they need in the mean time. This can be expressed milk, donor human milk or infant formula.
A SNS can be useful in a number of scenarios
These days, an SNS is used in many different scenarios, where the baby is getting some or all of their milk via a thin tube, placed at the nipple, such as;
- Adoptive Nursing
- Slow infant weight gain
- Infants with high calorie needs
- Breast hypoplasia
- Nipple sparing mastectomy*
- Breast reduction
Using an SNS can make the work of triple feeding much more efficient, or provide reassurance that the baby is getting milk when there are concerns about supply. At the same time, the baby also gets to practice at direct nursing and gets the benefits of using the sophisticated muscular movements and craniofacial development that brings.
Using an SNS can make the work of triple feeding much more efficient, or provide reassurance that the baby is getting milk when there are concerns about supply.
There can be downsides to using an SNS
It can be expensive, reusable systems are around £50 so can be useful if you anticipate needing it longer term, or parents sometimes buy 5 Fr feeding tubes (around £5 each) and adapt their own by putting the end onto a syringe or through a bottle teet.
The idea can be daunting, and it might take practice to get the hang of it the first couple of times.
The idea can be daunting, and it might take practice to get the hang of it the first couple of times
Older babies who are starting to use their hands more can sometimes knock them off, or take the tube out, but not always.
Just like everything in parenting, some things may work better for your circumstances than others. I have definitely found SNS a useful tool for many situations!
*The sensation or tissue of the nipple and areola may be compromised if someone has had surgery or radiotherapy to the breast or chest. Assessing suitability post- mastectomy should be done on an individual basis. An SNS is not advised when someone has had a nipple reconstruction because the tissue is not as flexible or suitable for suckling. It is also possible to achieve a full milk supply from a single remaining breast.