Why make your own Supplemental Nursing system (SNS)? Well, for starters it’s a lot cheaper. When I say a lot, I mean… like…. $40 cheaper. It’s also much simpler and easier to use.
If you are wanting to buy a system, I suggest the Lact-aid. Do not get the Medela SNS. It is terrible. It drips and leaks milk all over you and the baby. The tubes of mine broke more than once. They wanted to charge me $10 for replacement tubes plus $8 in shipping costs. Crazy, huh? No matter how desperately you are wanting to nurse, you will want to quit after using the Medela SNS. Yes… it really is that bad! To matters worse, it drips in the baby’s mouth. This would cause the same sort of problems that bottle feeding does. The worst part of all about the Medela SNS… is the cleaning. Or lack thereof. It’s just about impossible to clean well.
The Lact-Aid is really great. It does not leak or drip. The baby actually has to suck the milk out. The bags are disposable. This is both a pro and a con. It means you have to buy replacement bags. However, you don’t have the cleaning/sanitation nightmare like you do the Medela system.
But if you’re only needed to temporarily suppliment your baby and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to do so, the Home-made SNS is the route to go.
- 10 or 20 ml syringe (10cc or 20cc Luer lock Oring Syringe)
- infant feeding tube 15 inches long and 5 fr
There are several places you can get an infant feeding tube. Locally, you can try asking your pediatrician or check at a medical supply store. I bought mine from an online retailer. There are several out there! Even staples office supply store sells them via their website.
You will need to make sure it is 5 fr (this is the measure of how big-around the tube is). Too small and the flow of milk may be difficult for the infant to suckle out without becoming tired. Too large and the infant can develop a flow preference for the easy of the tube verses breastfeeding or be “drowned” in milk.
You also want it to be 15 inches long. Although it may be more convenient to have a longer tubing, getting it much longer than 15 inches will require the infant to suck harder than they should need to, anything much shorter and it will be extremely inconvenient to use.
You want to make sure the syringe is a Luer Lock one. Otherwise, the end of the tube won’t fit on it properly.
It’s a good idea to order a several of both the tubing and syringe. Sometimes they get dirty or clogged or lost. Trust me, it’s nice to have extras on hand.
How to Make it
Step 1: Fill the syringes with milk.
Step 2: Attach the end of the tube to the syringe.
Now… How to Use it…
Step 1: Latch the baby.
Step 2: Slip the end of the feeding tube into the corner of the baby’s mouth. Do not push it too far or it will gag the baby. But you do want it pushed far enough in so that both holes on the tip of the tube are inside the baby’s mouth. When you get it the right spot, a vacuum seal will form and the baby will actually start to suck milk out of the syringe, without you having to push it out. If the baby cannot do this for medical reasons or you need to encourage the baby to keep eating, you may plunge the syringe down slowly. When the first syringe is empty, you can switch to the other syringe without unlatching the baby.
Once you and the baby get used to doing it, it’s really easy, but there is a learning curve, so be patient. If you find yourself getting frustrated, walk away for a few minutes and come back to it. Even though the baby will be upset about not being fed, it’s better than the baby sensing your frustration and creating a negative association with nursing. Trust me on this one!
**** When using the home-made systems, you should latch the baby first and then insert the tube into the corner of the mouth. If using a professional system (both the Medela SNS or Lact-aid, you must hold the tube a little bit past the nipple and half way between the middle of the lip and the corner of the mouth.
This is because because the feeding tubes used to make the home-made systems are hard tubing. If placed anywhere other than the corner of the mouth, the tube could irritate or hurt the palate (roof of the mouth). However, the professional systems use a soft tubing that you will not be able to insert after the baby is already latched on. Moreover if in the corner of the mouth, the professional system may not have enough suction on it.****
Another option, is to make a Homemade Lact-Aid. This system uses a bottle of milk with a tube coming out of the bottom of the bottle. Here’s a very good video on how to make this. I used this system as well. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to switch syringes when the first one runs out. The advantage of the homemade SNS is that it’s more portable and doesn’t have as much potential to make a mess if you drop it. You can also stick it in your bra easily whereas the Homemade Lact-aid you have to find somewhere to set the bottle. This can be difficult if the tubing isn’t long enough.