The real boob tube: Learning to feed my baby with an SNS

Had someone told me I’d be pouring milk into a container, hanging it around my neck and taping the tubes attached to it to my breasts I’d not have believed it. I’d tell them: “Bring on the bottle, mate.”

I couldn’t have known how important breastfeeding would be to me until it was threatened. It took time to accept that Talitha needed supplementary milk and that, realistically, some of it would have to be formula.

When it became clear that almost every feed needed a top-up, at least for the time being, I both resented and was grateful for the bottle.

Despite having her tongue-tie corrected, Talitha still has a poor suck. She has to be at just the right angle and there needs to be just the right pressure in the breast or she gets hardly anything. She gets tired too soon.

Though the bottle was helping her gather the energy to make a real go of things, I was beginning to worry that the frequency with which we were using it was making her prefer the ease of its flow to the “hard work” of the breast.

So, we brought in the supplementary nursing system from Medela. It’s hard work, assembling, washing, sterilising, attaching and then, hardest of all: getting her to latch on properly and get the tube in her mouth at the same time.

And then, of course, just when I’ve managed that, little hands find the tube and yank it out, causing the milk flow to stop and the baby to strop.

With practice, we’re getting there. Still, I’m always wondering: when do I start the supplement? My flow is slow and I don’t want us to be at it for bloody ages before starting it but at the same time, I don’t want to start it too soon and she end up not getting as much from the breast itself as she can. Constant conundrum.

It’s just been a few days so I’m sure that with time and experience, questions will answer themselves. And who knows? One day we may not need to use it at all.

While the instructions say to tape the tube so the baby’s taking it under the top centre lip, it’s much easier if you tape it coming up from underneath, especially if you nurse in the clutch position. Some people latch the baby then stick the tube into the mouth corner but I’ve yet to make that work.

Video by Liam Camps