Pumps and Supplemental Systems

The breast pump can be an invaluable tool to all breastfeeding mothers. Unless you have the luxury of spending every moment with your baby or you intend to supplement with a formula, you will need a good pump. Prices start at about $40 and a top-of-the-line pump can cost hundreds. Even an expensive pump (complete with convenient travel case) is cheap compared to the price of formula. But an inexpensive pump will usually suffice for most mothers. Ask your midwife, doctor or lactation specialist to show you a selection of pumps and purchase one. If you are unable to purchase a pump, see if there is a rental program in your community or call the La Leche League. Your local health department may also be able to help.

A small percentages of babies will not automatically take to the breast for a variety of reasons. Although babies are born with a reflex to suck and mothers come equipped with breasts, successful breastfeeding is dependent on many factors. Some babies lack a vigorous suck. Others have small mouths and mothers with less-than-ideal nipples (too large, too flat, too everted). If, for any reason, your newborn does not achieve a successful latch-on in the first 6-12 hours after birth (and ideally in the first 2 hours!), you need to be seen by an expert lactation consultant.

There are a variety of implements devised to help with some of the more common latch-on problems. Some experts feel that none of the variety of nipple shields, breast shields and breast cups are of significant value and, thus, should not be used. A purist approach would dictate that mother and baby need to learn to latch-on without these devices. The purists have some good points. However, the basic, ultimate goal is that your baby be nourished by your breastmilk. For some it is much easier than for others.

If a baby needs to be fed soon after birth, it is very important that the baby NOT receive a bottle. The first bottle is often the first step to breastfeeding failure. If your newborn NEEDS to be fed soon after birth, and cannot achieve latch-on, or the quantity of your colostrum is deemed insufficient (a questionable scenario), your baby should be fed ON YOUR BREAST with the help of a supplemental breastfeeding system. Essentially, these systems consist of a very small tube connected to a small container (often a syringe). The tube is slipped into the baby’s mouth when the baby has latched on to your breast. The container may be filled with milk which you have pumped, or with infant formula. Your breasts need sucking stimulation to produce milk, and your baby needs to learn to suck at your nipple to nourish at your breast. If someone suggests that your newborn needs to be bottlefed, ask why a breastpump and a supplemental sytem cannot be used instead.