Moms breastfeed. That just seems to be the way life is supposed to be, and that is nature, right? Yes, but sometimes, it isn’t all roses and love and free flowing milk supply!
I have always maintained that breastfeeding is incredibly difficult; immensely rewarding and wonderful once you get the hang of it; but also something that constantly plays on your mind. Supply can genuinely be an issue.
Some give up trying, and opt to formula feed – mind you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some others try to mix feed – breast milk, but supplemented by formula as top feed. The most important thing after all is that the baby is fed; whether from bottle or boob, as long as baby gets his nourishment!
For some other moms, a regular dose of enhancers – be it skin on skin, or a nursing vacation, or even galactalogues make a difference, and supply no longer becomes an issue.
But what happens when no matter what you try, supply is just not increasing! But you still want to continue breast-feeding as much as possible. Knowing full well that the body works on a demand and supply principle, what really are the options?
There are also babies who are born premature, and as such unable to suck, or even the wee ones who are too lazy or inept at sucking.
The answer is the Supplemental Nursing System – or SnS. Basically, the way it works is, you feed bubba formula or expressed milk (whichever is at hand) through a pipe, while bubba continues to suckle at the breast. When the baby sucks, he gets the milk via the pipe, as well as what is produced by mommy.
The purpose if of course, to keep the baby at the breast, so that the body continues to produce and possibly produce more milk as you go along.
According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association website, milk given in this way rewards the baby’s efforts at sucking and he is more likely to be happy to feed from the breast and stay there for a longer time, thus helping in increasing supply, and helps with both the hormonal and physical aspects of breastfeeding.
LA Leche League GB’s website states that such feeding systems has the additional advantage of allowing mom and baby to enjoy the closeness of a breastfeeding relationship, and helps encourage a baby who is reluctant to feed.
Medela produces one such system – called the SnS, and the other option is called the Lactaid.
I spoke to Doha based Indian mom Aparna Aneeshkumar, who btw is the only mommy I personally know who uses this system, about her experiences. Like most new moms, Aparna too was keen on breastfeeding, but the lack of information she had on the challenges faced while breastfeeding meant she was off to a rocky start.
Information, and support are the most important factors to help any new breastfeeding on track. Even after not getting any, she tried her best to get back on track – met with a lactation consultant, supplements to increase supply, plenty of skin-to-skin, and even nursing breaks. But it just did not seem to help. Baby was healthy and happy, but the weight gain didn’t seem to be on track – despite mix feeding.
Although she had heard of supplemental feeding before, it was a meeting with lactation consultant Patience Okotie, which convinced her to try the new system. “She told me that it is possible that my baby had adjusted to the less milk I was giving, and hence he continued to be active, and have sufficient nappies,” says Aparna, “I was very upset to know that my baby might be suffering because of a choice I made. At the same time, I did not want my breastfeeding journey to come to an end. Even if I could give 10ml of this liquid gold, it was better than none. But my baby’s wellbeing was my utmost priority. SnS was always there at the back of my head, and I just knew I had to try it.”
She then read up on it, spoke to tonnes of other mothers, watched videos, and decided to take the leap. A facebook group for moms who uses SnS – Supply Line Breastfeeders Support Group of Australia – became her go-to spot to clear all related doubts.“SnS is not very commonly used; in fact even leading pediatricians I have spoken to did not hear of it before. But if it meant keeping my baby at the breast a little longer, while also ensuring his needs are met by formula, I was more than willing to go the extra mile. It did take some time to sort of get the hang of it; after all I was relying on online sources, and my own research on it.””
“SnS can be hit and miss, and as with everything related to babies, it depend solely on how they accept it. I was lucky in this regard, as my boy was okay with it. Yes, we still have issues of latching, and unlatching a couple of times, but that was pretty okay to deal with.”
Aparna uses the Lactaid, and the challenges she faces includes the lack of availability and the costs involved. If bubba is restless, then it is also a challenge to keep it in place – which some moms tackle by taping it to the breast. Cleaning is another troublesome task when it comes to the Lactaid.
While out and about, it is not the easiest of processes. From mixing the formula, to setting up the system, to getting down to feeding, it does take more time and effort.
It is a hassle, yes. Cost-wise, time-wise, effort-wise, but for Aparna, it is worth it. “I am still able to keep my breastfeeding my baby – thus he gets the benefits of breast milk – regardless of if its10, or 15, or 20ml. And slowly, but steadily, we are gaining weight too.”
When asked about how people she reacted to her, she said: “I have told a few people – including my parents and in laws – I am not sure they understand, but at least there has been no judgment, and for that I am grateful. But anyway, even if they thought I was mad, it wouldn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, I know I am doing the best for my baby, and that is the most important thing.”