Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Is That an SNS in Your Shirt, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

My SNS components
After ten months of using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to supplement my daughter with donated breast milk, I've definitely had my share of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good.
I've been able to nurse my daughter for 11 months!!!! I'm still a little in shock even though I'm living it. With our first two, I didn't have the proper support (even being told I'd fail by the lactation consultant at the hospital with #2), I didn't have the knowledge, and the thought of asking for breast milk never crossed my mind. My first babe did fine on formula, thankfully. My second babe, not so much. She had terrible issues with ALL formula until we finally switched her to raw goat's milk when she was about 7 months old (if my memory serves me). Still not human milk, but what a relief. So, with Lydia, it has been an absolute joy to keep her at breast for this long. I had an amazing support system and moms who stepped up and provided us with milk before I even asked. I know that there are days in this journey that if I didn't have women (and my amazing husband) 'fighting' for me, I would have given up. I plan to nurse for as long as she would like, our SNS has made that possible.

The Bad.
(source unknown)
I sort of thought that when we got our SNS, things would be peachy keen. For the most part they have, but we haven't been without our hang ups. I think the biggest nightmare is running out of milk. We've been very blessed to have a 'main' donor, Sarah. Her son, Case, is 5 days younger than Lydia and she is one of the mothers who offered before being asked. Really, before Lydia or Case were even born, she offered to pump for us. But when she got the dreaded 'Six Month Drop' that some mamas experience, things got a little more...challenging. Although Sarah still does all she can, we have a few other mamas who've pitched in now, too: another Sarah, Adrienne, and not one, but two Jessicas! How awesome is that?! (We're getting back into 'The Good' now, aren't we?) It's been a little more difficult to drive around our cities to collect milk, but not too much that I would ever want to stop! We take a few more short little road trips (and sometimes include play dates!) and that's just part of life now.

The Ugly.
And now, we come to the point of this post. The ugly parts of the SNS. I'm going to try to condense this, because I could write a book! The worst part has got to be that, sometimes, it leaks. Sometimes it leaks a lot. And in weird places on your body. Like, when a mother leaks from her breast, it shows through in the appropriate spot on her shirt, right? But when a mother leaks from her SNS, it can show up in any number of places! I've looked like I'm lactating from the middle of my chest, my belly button and even my shoulder. I generally catch it quick enough to not be detrimental. Occasionally, when I've been wearing her or even just holding her close, the warm, flowing liquid goes undetected. 2+ ounces of breast milk goes a long way on a shirt, let me tell ya. This has been especially bothersome when the weather outside is frightful; having to put a soaked Lydia in her car seat and a soaked me in the driver seat while temps are below freezing is less than desirable. It also leaked one time while I was laying on my back getting adjusted. My chiropractor (a dude!) laughed it off, thank goodness, but for some reason I was mortified!

There's no way to get around saying this: I've got small breasts. So putting a bag between them with about 3-4 oz of milk in it tends to get noticed. Probably not too often, but enough. I think the most obvious part is when I don't have a high collar shirt on, the top of my apparatus shows. I always wonder if people think it's a pacemaker or something and that's why they don't ask about it. So there's a fun bulge between my breasts and a plastic piece sticking out of the top of my shirt. Maybe I'm turning into some sort of new age bionic woman? Maybe I'm growing a third, more giant boob? We'll never know.
My sweet little Lydia

And one time, the unthinkable happened, my tubing got a hole in it! This is why the company recommends you buy their package with two tubing sets in it (oh, my bad). So while we waited for our new tubing to come, we had to use bottles (well, not HAD, but it was the easiest option and worked out fine). When the tubing came, I had ordered the wrong part! I called the company, crying, and he expedited the right part. We were without our SNS for a little over a week. In that time, I realized how happy I was that we had an SNS in the first place. Which definitely makes all of this bad and ugly stuff sort of disappear.

So no, it isn't a cake walk to use an SNS. It might not be the right option for all families, for all situations. But I'm grateful that we have it, even if I do want to set it on fire every now and again.

Interested in knowing more about supplementing and donor milk? Check out these pages:
Lact-Aid Nursing Trainer System (this is where I got my SNS, I haven't tried another system, but heard good things about this one before ordering.I didn't have a ton of time to research. I'm very happy with my choice and this company!)
Human Milk 4 Human Babies I just recently became an admin for our state's HM4HB page. Amazing network. I'm grateful I've never had to ask for milk on this page and that my community just stepped up to the need. Lots of good information on informal milk sharing.
Eats on Feets Another informal milk sharing group.


  1. Thank you so much for writing about your experience! I think it's extremely valuable to give a voice to these (less-talked-about) aspects of nursing and supplementing, and to talk openly about the SNS as a viable alternative (or addition) to bottle feeding. I'm so happy that you have such a wonderful, supportive network of women around you to help through this challenge!

    1. Thanks for reading, Amy! I was excited to write this post because it's important to talk about things to normalize them. I do hope that mamas who are struggling in this area can get some info from this. I'm so very blessed to have the team I have, for sure!