Top Tips for using an SNS

Have you every tried a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)? Looks kind of complicated and scary, right? It doesn’t need to be! Let me make it super easy for you.

But very briefly, before I do that, here are some situations where parents might benefit from using an SNS, or another at-breast-supplementer.
– Giving ‘top ups’
– Increasing supply
– If you have insufficient glandular tissue/hypoplasia
– Entice baby back to breastfeeding after a nursing strike 
– Relactation (where you had to stop but want to start again)
– Induced lactation (for parents who didn’t birth their child, eg adoption)
– Milk transfer issues E.g. Tongue tie
– Low or high tone babies
– Prem babies

So, back to my tips! This is the image that this company is using to demonstrate the appropriate way to use this device:

Now here is me, after having used it for five months, when I had figured out all the things to make it soooo much easier. (Keep in mind that most women need it for a MUCH shorter amount of time, and there were extenuating circumstances to my situation.)


While I certainly love and thank this contraption, there were definitely times where I wanted to throw it against a wall and smash it with a sledge hammer. Repeatedly. But I know without any doubt that this contraption is the sole reason why I managed to breastfeed my second for 2.5 years, and for that I adore it.

So here are my top tips, as a well-seasoned SNS user:

  • Get rid of that cord around your neck. It gets stuck on ears and hair and earrings and everything. It has a plastic ‘lock’ to shorten and lengthen the cord, but that never worked well for me… So I just got rid of it and tuck it up under my bra-strap or tank top. Easy.
  • Get rid of the tape. Sure, you might want to try with the tape for the first 2-3 times to get the hang of it, but goodness it makes things complicated and makes you feel like you need eight hands. My skin also reacted badly to in within 24 hours. INSTEAD, I would just use a finger to hold it in place temporarily during the latch, and then we were good. Others try to slide the tube in after baby is latched (though this never worked for me) — also no need for tape.
  • Get yourself a breastfeeding necklace STAT. Those little hands will be pulling at those tubes constantly, leading to all sorts of issues… so I would manually put my baby’s hand around the necklace before latching with the tube, even when he was tiny. There are great breastfeeding/nursing necklaces on etsy.com.
  • If you’re using formula in there, shake the hell out of it. Ensure there’s not a remote chance there will be a minuscule clump that will clog the tube (annnnoyyyyying). If you’re using breastmilk, either yours or from a donor, ensure the milk is warmed enough that the fat is fully melted, for the same reason as above.
  • The process: When bub was hungry, I’d latch him onto the first breast with no tube, and then get everything ready to go with the SNS for when we switched sides. This ensured that:
    • My heart was coping, because I couldn’t deal with having my hungry baby wait. Here he was being latched on and comforted immediately.
    • He was not constantly feeding with the tube — some babies get used to the tube and won’t latch without it. This ensures that this won’t happen.
    • He had the chance to just comfort feed and go to sleep, if I made a mistake about his level of hunger. 99.5% of the time, he’d start whimpering and pulling at my nipple and bashing at my breast, so then I’d swap him; the other 0.5% of the time he would be happy there and just go to sleep.
    • I was ensuring that my milk supply was continuing to increase, as I’d only swap him when he signalled that the first breast was ’emptied’, and he’d worked hard to make more milk there.

Try to remember that using an SNS in public is WONDERFUL! It may be very scary, but know that you are normalising all different forms of infant feeding, and there were many women that approached me to learn more. For us, this was normal. For my toddler, clearly, this was also the normal way for babies to be fed — at the breast, with a bottle propped up there too. <3


Let me know if you have some cool tips to add that may help others!

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