"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." -Winston Churchill

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

At-Breast Supplementing

I was a die-hard SNS fan for years, but I made the switch to the lact-aid nursing trainer with baby #5 and I love it! I now have experience with 4 types of at-breast supplemental devices, so I thought I'd make a post comparing them. 

Home-made At-breast Supplemental Feeding Devices

Syringe and feeding tube 

A small syringe is filled with milk (collected colostrum, donor milk, formula), the tube is placed in baby's mouth while latched to the breast, and mother or support person slowly depresses the syringe to inject the milk into baby's mouth.

A 5ml syringe and French 5 feeding tube

A larger syringe for bigger feedings

Pros: Good for small feedings in the early days when baby's intake is very small, perfect for feeding colostrum harvested during pregnancy (I'll be working on a post about that someday, too!)
Cons: Often requires a support person while mother is supporting baby, can be frustrating to attempt without support person, not convenient for larger feedings which would require refilling or switching out syringes
To clean: fill syringe with hot, soapy water and attach feeding tube. Force water through. Repeat with vinegar (optional) and clear water.
Recommended? It's worth a shot, at least for the first few days. But it's not easy to juggle a newborn learning to nurse AND slowly depress a syringe at the same time, so ask someone to help you! And if there's no one to give a hand, I'd recommend nursing first and then supplementing with the syringe without the feeding tube. 

Feeding tube and bottle

For this version, I drilled a hole in the lid of a milk collection bottle and fed the tube through the hole. Our IBCLC gave us the feeding tubes, but you may be able to get some through a medical supply store or online.

The end of the feeding tube that attaches to the syringe goes into the bottle and helps weigh it down. 

A different version of the same kind of set up, the feeding tube is fed through the nipple of a bottle making it more spill-proof.

Some moms prefer a longer feeding tube so the bottle can be placed on the table, and some moms keep the bottle close to baby. 
To clean: fill a syringe with hot soapy water, and flush through the tube. You can repeat with vinegar, if you'd like. Then flush with water. 

Pros: Inexpensive. Stiff tubing can be easier to insert into baby's mouth. Can be used with any size bottle or container.
Cons: Some babies dislike the feeling of the stiff tubing in their mouths.
Recommended? Yes! This is a great short-term OR long-term supplemental feeding set-up (although the tubes will need to be replaced if using long-term.)
I'd also recommend this for someone attempting to relactate or get baby back to breast before investing in the more expensive commercial at-breast supplementers. 

Commercial At-breast Supplemental Feeding Devices

Medela Starter SNS

 This is probably my least favorite as a low supply mom, but it could be more helpful for a full-supply mom who just needs a little help getting her supply up.

The starter SNS consists of a teat with a tube, and a valve assembly, which attaches to a 2.5 ounce collection bottle. 

The Medela Starter SNS is (supposed to be) a short-term supplemental device. It's a gravity-fed system, and the height of the device dictates the flow. You can also prime the teat to "prime the pump"/release some pressure.
To clean, you take the assembly apart and rinse, then fill with hot, soapy water and reassemble, then force water through by squeezing the teat. Repeat with vinegar (optional) and clean water.
Pros: Relatively inexpensive. Okay for short-term use.
Cons: Feedings often take a long time which may tire baby out. Not really built to last. Hard to use discreetly in public (if you're into that kind of thing).
Recommended? Eh, if you get one for free, give it a shot. Not my favorite, but some people prefer it. Different strokes for different folks.

Medela Long-term SNS

I have a LOT of experience with this one, obviously. And my most recent experience taught me even more.

The Medela long-term SNS has two tubes. It's a gravity-fed device like the starter SNS, and height dictates flow. Second tube can be released to let out pressure or left open for faster flow. 
The best instructions I've found for using it are on this website. http://watanabe.fastmail.jp/sns.html
To clean: rinse bottle, fill with hot, soapy water. Reassemble and force soapy water through the tubes. Repeat with vinegar and water.
Pros: 3 different tube sizes (small, medium, large). Made for long-term use, reusable bottle. Easy to see how much baby has eaten with clearly marked milliliters and ounces. Gravity-fed milk flow can be helpful for weak babies.
Cons: Prone to leaking if cap is too loose or too tight. Expensive to replace tubes or missing parts. Hard to use discreetly in public.
Recommended? Sure. I used it for years, although I always said I had a love/hate relationship with my SNS.

Lact-aid Nursing Trainer

Somehow that blue thing is supposed to help you hold up the bags while filling, but I just stick the bag in a clean coffee cup. The funnel goes into the bag for filling. The little white thing is a filter for formula, you insert into the funnel. Then there's an assembled lact-aid, and cleaning syringe. 

The lact-aid is hard to describe. And I know it looks overwhelming. I was overwhelmed, myself. 
The lact-aid is not a gravity-fed device, and in the early days, my baby was not strong enough to remove milk well. The bags also have no units of measurement printed on them, so unless baby has been able to remove an obvious amount of milk, it can be hard to tell if the milk is flowing at all.
Once my little guy was gaining well and gaining strength, we got the hang of the lact-aid and never looked back. Now that it works for us, it is THE BEST THING EVER! 
Cleaning is pretty easy with the bulb syringe. Fill it with hot, soapy water, flush the lines. Repeat with vinegar. Repeat with water. No sweat. 
Pros: Looks complicated, but isn't. Easy to tuck in bra and go. More discreet use in public. Less leaks than Medela SNS. Multiple units make life easier.
Cons: Not cheap. May be difficult for a struggling baby, can be hard to tell if the milk is flowing, bags are single use*, bags aren't marked in mililiters or ounces so harder to monitor baby's intake.
Recommended? Yes. This one is by far my favorite. Unlike the Medela SNS, I have a love/love relationship with this one. If you do get the lact-aid and fall in love with it, get as many units as you can. Makes life much easier. :)

*I've heard some people wash and re-use bags, but for liability's sake, you didn't hear it from me. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Birth of Baby Bluebird

I'm November 5th- I woke in the night to several mild to moderate contractions, but instead of getting stronger, they fizzled out and I went back to sleep. Throughout the day, I continued to have random mild contractions, but no pattern and no consistency. I lost my mucus plug, though, and started having my bloody show.
I thought labor was beginning several times, but contractions continued to stop. I ate, rested, and kept myself hydrated.
At 10 pm, a contraction woke me up. I went back to sleep. At 11 pm, I had another. I got up to pee and then the contractions began to come every 5 minutes. I began to make the groaning cake, pausing to moan and dance through contractions. We called the midwives. I popped the cake pans in the oven and mixed up the frosting.
The first of our birth team arrived and helped Rob start to fill the birth tub. My contractions were already incredibly intense, and I couldn't wait to get in the water. Unfortunately, we have very low water pressure so I had to wait what felt like forever. 
I couldn't believe how strong my contractions were, and I couldn't find relief. I dropped to my hands and knees and tried to rock through a contraction, and then I was told the pool was ready. I hopped in eagerly and immediately had another contraction. 

The water helped a little, but I continued to be slightly overwhelmed by the power of my contracting uterus. I was already quite over the whole labor process. I was hot, I was cold, I was shaky and felt slightly nauseated. I felt like my contractions were transition strong, and bellowing to the point of almost pushing helped me get through the peaks.

My transition during this labor was by far the longest, and I was desperate to cross the finish line. I had been kneeling, but decided to sit back, and my contractions began to get "pushier," but I wasn't fully pushing yet. 

I kept changing positions, listening to the feedback of my body. I stuck two fingers inside and was quite surprised to find the bag of water and his head about 2 inches from the opening. I knelt with my legs wide open, and kept my fingers on his head and felt him move down with every push. 

My amniotic sac ruptured and I could feel his wrinkly little head. At first, I thought he was another baldy baby, but a few pushes later, I felt quite a bit of hair. 
I kept waiting for the "good feeling" I'd had with previous births while pushing, but it never came.

I continued to change positions from kneeling to almost all fours, supporting my perineum as needed. In what felt like an incredibly short time, his head went from inside me to outside me. "His head is out!" I gasped, and I could feel the cord around his neck. Another push and his body slid out. "He has a nuchal cord," I said, and unwound it from around his neck. It was wrapped around twice! Then I pulled him out of the water. 

He was a little stunned and wasn't immediately responsive. He looked surprised! We rubbed his back and feet and soon he began to grimace and then let out a soft little cry. And then he began to take in the world around him, quiet and alert. 

He was so peaceful and calm, completely unlike his siblings at birth. A totally new experience, and one I had been wishing for. 

The pool began to feel cool, so Eliza cut the cord and we waddled our way to bed. He latched on like a pro while we waited for my placenta to detach. 
I was so pleased to have a minor "skid mark" tear, because I've needed stitches with all four previous births, from a 3rd degree episiotomy to a fourth degree tear. That alone was a huge victory for me. 

Baby was weighed and measured, 7 lbs, 8 oz and 20 inches. It was my most intense birth experience, but so incredible to catch my baby all on my own. 
Our family is complete. :)