Lactation Aid

What is a lactation aid?

A lactation aid is a device that lets you give your baby extra breast milk or formula while your baby is feeding at your breast. This extra liquid food is called a feeding supplement. A feeding supplement may be any of the following:

  • Milk that you take from the breast with your hand or a breast pump. This milk is called expressed breast milk.
  • Baby formula 
  • A liquid or powder that you add to breast milk or to formula for extra calories.

Why use a lactation aid?

  • Your milk supply is low.
  • Your baby needs extra calories or liquids to gain weight.
  • Your baby gets tired easily during feedings.

Supplies you will need to use a lactation aid to feed your baby

  • A number 5 French feeding tube that is 36 inches long.
  • A baby bottle or a syringe without a needle that will hold 30 to 60 ml of liquid. A syringe is a hollow tube that has a plunger and holds liquids.
  • Adhesive or clear medical tape.
  • A feeding supplement such as expressed breast milk, expressed breast milk with added calories, or baby formula.
  • If you are using a syringe, an elastic band and safety pin or a flat surface to put the bottle on.
  • A plastic bag you can seal to store the feeding tube.

Ask your nurse or lactation consultant where to buy these supplies. You can buy a ready-made lactation aid called a Supplemental Nursing System or Starter Nursing Kit . These supplies may be available at your local hospital. Some drugstores and medical supply stores may also carry these supplies. If you are unable to get these supplies at your location, they can also be ordered in person, on the phone, or online from The Specialty Food Shop at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. For details, go to: http://www.specialtyfoodshop.ca/specialtyfoodshop/ or call 1-800-737-7976. The Specialty Food Shop may be able to ship these supplies to your location.

The Supplemental Nursing System and Starter Nursing Kit are also available from the manufacturer. For details, go to: www.medela.ca  

Using a lactation aid

A lactation aid works best for babies who have learned to latch (attach) on to the breast properly and to suck well. Getting started with a lactation aid can sometimes be hard. It takes a bit of practice, but using a lactation aid gets easier each time you do it. Ask your nurse to help you with one of these two methods of using a lactation aid.

Method 1: Taping the lactation aid to your breast before your baby latches to the breast 

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Prepare the feeding supplement by following the recipe written by the dietitian. 
  1. If you are using a syringe, fasten the wide end of the feeding tube to the tip of the syringe. Remove the plunger from the syringe. Pour the feeding supplement into the syringe. Put the elastic band around the top of the syringe. Then put a safety pin through the end of the elastic so that you can fasten the syringe to your clothing. The bottom of the syringe should be at the same level as your baby's head.
Lactation Aid Using a Syringe
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Fasten the syringe to your clothing.
  1. If you are using a bottle, put the small end of the feeding tube through the enlarged nipple hole, leaving the large end of the tube touching the bottom of the bottle. Pour the supplement into the bottle. Put the bottle on a flat surface close to you, at the level of the baby's head.
Lactation Aid Using a Bottle
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The bottle should be at the level of the baby's head.
  1. Tape the small end of the feeding tube to your breast. The feeding tube should come down from the top of your breast or come from the side of your breast. The feeding tube should end just at the end of your nipple.
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Hold the breast with your thumb on top and fingers underneath. Tickle the baby's lip with the nipple.
  1. Latch your baby onto your breast so that her mouth covers the end of the tube and the breast. When she opens wide, as wide as a yawn, quickly pull her towards your breast. The baby's chin comes to your breast first, then her lower lip, then her upper lip last. Cover more of the areola with the lower lip than the upper lip. The tip of the nose may touch or be close to the breast.
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Milk will flow along the tube when the tube is in the correct position.

Method 2: Sliding the lactation aid into the baby's mouth after the baby latches onto your breast

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Prepare the feeding supplement by following the recipe written by the dietitian.
  3. If you are using a syringe, fasten the wide end of the feeding tube to the tip of the syringe. Remove the plunger from the syringe. Pour the feeding supplement into the syringe. Put the elastic band around the top of the syringe. Then put a safety pin through the end of the elastic so that you can fasten the syringe to your clothing. The bottom of the syringe should be at the same level as your baby's head.
  4. If you are using a bottle, put the small end of the feeding tube through the enlarged nipple hole, leaving the large end of the tube touching the bottom of the bottle. Pour the supplement into the bottle. Put the bottle on a flat surface close to you, at the level of the baby's head.
  1. Latch your baby onto your breast. Your baby should be latched on well and feeding.
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Latch your baby onto your breast.
  1. Once your baby is sucking well at the breast, slowly slide the feeding tube into the side of your baby's mouth. Aim the feeding tube toward the roof of the mouth on top of the tongue. Stop moving the tube when you see the feeding supplement start to move in the feeding tube towards the baby's mouth. You may find it helpful to hold the feeding tube against the breast with your finger, or you can tape the feeding tube to your breast.
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Slide the feeding tube in beside the nipple in the corner of the baby's mouth.

With either method 1 or method 2, you will know that the feeding tube is in the right place if you can see the feeding supplement start to move along the feeding tube each time your baby sucks.

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Milk will flow along the tube when the tube is in the correct position.

Tips for using a lactation aid

The feeding supplement should flow when the baby sucks and stop when the baby stops sucking. Your baby is getting enough feeding supplement if you can hear her swallowing with each suck. If your baby is not getting enough feeding supplement, try the following things:

  • Check for bends or kinks in the feeding tube.
  • Check the position of the feeding tube in your baby's mouth.
  • Raise the bottle or syringe of feeding supplement a few inches above your baby's head.

Correct the height of the bottle or syringe of feeding supplement so that your baby can feed at her own pace. If your baby is getting the feeding supplement too fast, lower the bottle or syringe of feeding supplement a few inches below the baby's head.

Talk to your nurse and dietitian about how many feedings your baby should have. Ask how much feeding supplement your baby will need when you use the lactation aid for 24 hours. Many mothers use the lactation aid for feedings during the day and use the lactation aid very little at night.

How long should it take to feed your baby with a lactation aid?

If the feeding tube is in the right position, your baby should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes to take 1 ounce, which is 30 ml, of feeding supplement from the lactation aid. If it takes longer than 15 to 20 minutes to take 30 ml, check for the following:

  • The baby is latched onto the breast properly.
  • The feeding tube is in the right position.
  • The bottle or syringe is at the right height.

How do you make the feeding supplement?

Ask your dietitian at the hospital about how to make the feeding supplement for your baby.

Cleaning your lactation aid is easy

Wash your lactation aid with warm soapy water, using a dish washing soap. Make sure to run the water through the tube as well. Attach the syringe to the blue end of the tube. Fill the syringe with soapy water. Insert the plunger and push the water through the tube. Rinse well with clean warm water. Again, run this water through the tube. Make sure there is no dry feeding supplement left in any part of the lactation aid. Fill the syringe with air and push the air through the tube to remove the water.

Put the lactation aid in a clean towel or plastic bag. For home use, the feeding tube can be used for 7 days or until the feeding tube becomes hard.

Note: You should not boil the lactation aid because boiling will make the plastic hard too quickly.

Talk to a professional about how long you should continue using the lactation aid

Since a lactation aid may be needed for many reasons, it is hard to say how long you may need to use it. Ask your doctor, nurse, or dietitian to explain your baby's weight gain and growth chart to you. If your baby is not gaining weight fast enough, the doctor or dietitian will tell you how to add more calories to your baby's feeding supplement.

As soon as your baby is at a good weight for her age, the doctor or dietitian will tell you how to slowly decrease the strength or amount of feeding supplement you give your baby. When your doctor, nurse, or dietitian thinks your baby is getting enough milk from the breast alone, you will be able to stop the feeding supplement.

Continue to see your baby's doctor for check-ups

See your family doctor 2 days after leaving the hospital. Talk to your doctor about your baby's weight and growth. Make sure that you take your baby to the doctor for regular check-ups every week or so to see how well you baby is gaining weight and growing.

Key points

  • A lactation aid is a method of getting your baby more nutrition and calories while breastfeeding.
  • To use a lactation aid, you will need some supplies.
  • Your baby should know how to latch and suck.
  • Feedings with lactation aids should continue until your baby has grown and gained enough weight. Talk to your doctor.
  • Use of a lactation aid needs to be supervised by a breastfeeding specialist or doctor once you are discharged from the hospital.

Iola Panetta, BScN, RN, IBCLC, RLC
Debbie Stone, RN, IBCLC, RLC
Joyce Touw, BScN, PNC(C), RN, IBCLC, RLC

11/10/2009

At SickKids:

You can buy supplies for the lactation aid at the Specialty Food Shop on the main floor of the hospital. You may not be able to buy all of them at your local drug store. Speak to your nurse about how to care for this equipment while your baby is at SickKids.

The Specialty Food Shop sells ready-made lactation aids called the Supplemental Nursing System or the Starter Nursing Kit, as well as other breastfeeding supplies.





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