“Everything went downhill in our breastfeeding journey when my son was about 11 weeks.
We both got sick, my supply dropped and that was it … cue 10 weeks of pure stress while I attempted everything I could to try to get my son to consistently gain weight.
I was feeding constantly, expressing when I wasn’t feeding and weighing him obsessively with the baby scales that I bought purely for that purpose. When he was 21 weeks I made an appointment with the breastfeeding clinic at the hospital where I gave birth.
After weighing him and finding he was a tiny 3.862kg and taking our medical history the lactation consultant (LC) told me he needed formula. More to the point, she was going over to the hospital to get some so we could give it to him then and there.
She left the room to speak to her boss and I cried, it was a mixture of relief that someone with authority had told me that I could give him formula, guilt that I hadn’t done it sooner and sadness that our breastfeeding journey was coming to an end because my baby would now be bottle fed.
I was pleasantly surprised when she came back with the formula and also some tubing so that I could feed him the formula at the breast. I had vaguely heard about supplemental nursing systems and finger feeding but it all sounded a bit too hard and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it entailed.
Well, it’s actually surprisingly simple. The formula – or expressed breast milk (EBM) – is put in a bottle and a tube from the bottle is taped to the breast so that it ends near the nipple.
The baby then sucks at the breast with the tube in their mouth as well which allows them to suck the milk through the tube while feeding at the breast.
They were originally designed for mothers who have adopted babies and want to feed at the breast but are also used for mothers like myself who have issues preventing them from exclusively breastfeeding.
I left that appointment with a baby that had a full belly for the first time in two and a half months, he actually fell asleep in the car!
On the way home, I bought both a tin of formula from the supermarket and a supplemental nursing system (SNS) from the chemist. The SNS cost about $80 which, let’s face it, is expensive for what it is but for me it has been worth every cent. You can do the same thing with just an open bottle and tubing which is much cheaper but for long-term consistent use the one I bought hangs around your neck to allow you to feed without having to hold the bottle which is so much easier.
I firmly believe that had I been aware that supplemental nursing was an option and how easy it would be, I would’ve started topping up with formula sooner. I even could’ve given my EBM top-ups using the SNS and may have never had to use formula at all because that would’ve helped with my supply as well.
I am trying not to live in the past, I can’t change what happened and everything I did was about trying to do the best for my son at the time.
For anyone who is struggling with breastfeeding, please know that there are options out there and that giving formula doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to end feeding at the breast.”
– thank-you to our forum member Sian who has shared her story with us! x