When I was pregnant, I pretty much thought that breastfeeding would be a given. I had a breast reduction a while back, but honestly, I wasn’t thinking much beyond images of my baby (who was surprisingly smily and chatty for a newborn, and never, ever cried) and I (perfectly made up, wearing my favorite Louboutins, and sans the 50 pounds I put on during pregnancy) going for a stroll in the park, me expertly whipping out my Bebe au Lait nursing cover (I had the perfect one picked out) and letting her go to town. Imagine my surprise – ME, who prides myself on always being over-prepared and over-informed – when the lactation consultant at the hospital handed me a Medela supplemental nursing system (SNS). What was this contraption and how was I supposed to feed my baby with it?! No one actually showed me how to use an SNS.
And so began my love/hate relationship with the SNS. I’ll leave the breastfeeding vs. formula debate out of this; I believe every woman should do what’s right for her and for her baby and be free of judgment. For some it’s a personal choice and for others it isn’t. It turned out that I had low milk production (probably due to my breast reduction) and my baby had mild jaundice. As set as I was on breastfeeding prior to having Olivia, I had to supplement with formula. Back to the SNS. In the four weeks that I fed my daughter exclusively via “that damned straw” I grew to hate the rocket-science-like precision with which I had to align the tube over my nipple to get a proper latch and the fact that cleaning it was so cumbersome. But I loved the closeness it gave me with Olivia, especially after watching her struggle to nurse, writhing in frustration because there wasn’t much milk to eat. I also appreciated the fact that it stimulated my milk supply so I could give her as much breastmilk as possible. Between the SNS, pumping, preparing formula AND cleaning the SNS, pump parts and bottles, it was a rough start to feeding. But I’m so glad I did it. Now, I’m able to at least feed Olivia approximately 25% breastmilk each day. I should add that I also tried More Milk Plus and Fenugreek capsules and they seemed to have worked a bit. Honestly, the biggest increases I saw were the day after I drank a beer and after I ate oatmeal cookies but there’s no hard evidence that either of these work (I’ve heard lots of anecdotal stories, though).After going through my ordeal with the SNS, I discovered that two close friends also had to use it. I wondered why there weren’t more blog posts dedicated to it, and figured I should share my tips.
Tips For Using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)
- Order a few backups of the Medela Starter SNS. They are a pain to clean, and after a while, since you’re using it 24×7, milk/formula builds up in the straw part and the straw starts turning yellowish. I don’t trust that it’s fully sanitary at that point.
- Don’t put any part of the SNS in a microwave sterilization bag – I learned that the hard way and ruined an SNS.
- I hold the SNS in the crook of my neck. The higher you hold it, the faster the milk flow and vice versa.
- Even though the starter SNS is meant to be “semi-disposable”, it is better and easier to use than the regular version. I found that the regular Medela SNSseemed better in theory, but Olivia was sucking too much air through it, and then she’d be in pain because of the gas.
- If you have trouble positioning the straw in the exact right position on your nipple so baby latches on to the nipple AND straw properly, you can use two pieces of tape to make an upside down “T”, so you’re supporting the tube vertically and horizontally. I always found that it was sliding around all over the place and I’d have to relatch her a million times.
- Hang in there!! It can be really frustrating and emotionally exhausting to be a new mom AND have feeding issues. Just know that it gets better, and the SNS helps you get there.
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