Tips for Using an At-Breast Supplementer

November 09, 2017

When we imagine what breastfeeding will look like, few of us expect that we'll need a little help from an at-breast nursing supplementer.  

But sometimes supplementers are necessary and they can be life-saving tools for moms who have low milk supply as well as for adoptive and non-birth moms who want to nurse their babies. Allowing babies to receive supplements while nursing at the breast can save a breastfeeding relationship by supporting a mom's milk supply, and by minimizing nipple confusion and flow preference. For adoptive and non-birth moms, they can be integral to establishing a breastfeeding relationship and helping induce and sustain a milk supply.

As useful as they are, at-breast supplementers can also be pretty tricky to use. Bottle, tubes, tape…it takes a while to get the hang of using one. Even choosing one can be a little complicated (see this chart for the differences between commercially available supplementers). So we thought we'd tap into the collective wisdom of our readers who have used a nursing supplementer for some of your favorite tips. Here is what you told us!

  • “If you can afford it have two on hand. They aren't cheap but it's a lifesaver to have one cleaned and ready to go at all times. Also, the tubes do break and having a back up saved me from a crisis.”
  • “Use paper tape for sensitive skin.”
  • “Tape in a T (one piece down the tube and one across) instead of just one piece across the tube.”
  • “Pull tube through a couple of lock off spots. It easily pops out of just one and you will have a mess.”
  • “I clipped my Supplemental Nursing System to a baseball cap for hands-free gravity assistance rather than [using my neck and shoulder] to hold it up.  Worked like a charm!”
  • “The Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer is the original, and best, according to not just to me, but the majority of moms who have used the others on the market, too. It's comfortable to wear, can be used in any position, flows with baby's suckling, not gravity (unless it's upside-down). It can easily be concealed under clothing, for those who prefer not to let everyone around them see it. It's durable, easy to clean, the one tube is easy to switch from breast to breast. It's also easier to use without having to tape the tube. Taking tape on and off, repeatedly, is very unkind to skin. It looks daunting, but a few times using it usually results in being able to prepare and/or use it, half asleep.”
  • “Screwing the lid too tight causes leaks.”
  • “I had a Hazelbaker Finger Feeder from the lactation consultant.  The top “plug” was hard to get in one handed, and taping it to my breast caused irritation… eventually I learned to tuck it into my bra strap and it was at a lower level to slow the flow down which I think helped my supply, and yes she still got the extra milk… made her work a little more for it than just a fast flow… and we nursed 'til she was 13 months before she was no longer interested.”
  • “I used a homemade one for a couple weeks with my daughter. It was a pain and frustrating, but it saved our breastfeeding relationship.”
  • “I used tape to hold the line down. It was A LOT of work but made it so I could continue nursing!”
  • “You probably won't be but TRY to be patient with yourself. Like anything else in life you will learn as you go and things will get easier!”

A big thank you to everyone who contributed advice on using a supplementer. We hope that your advice can help a mama in need!

Content on this blog does not constitute endorsement of any supplemental nursing system. Commentaries represent the opinion of the mothers who have provided tips and do not reflect the views of Motherlove.

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