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Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)

Supplemental Nursing System (SNS)


What is a supplemental nursing system?

SNS allows mothers to supplement their baby with breastmilk or formula while still attaching baby to the breast. This is achieved by placing thin tubing - attached to a bottle or syringe, along the nipple and into the baby’s mouth. Often the tubing may be taped to the breast to keep it in place for the duration of the feed. The aim of SNS is to encourage baby at the breast by providing a flow of milk throughout the feed.

Indications you may need to try a Supplemental Nursing System:

  • Lactation complicated by low supply
  • Re-lactation after breastfeeding interrupted
  • Training baby to transition from bottles to breast with/without a nipple shield
  • Babies of low birth weight requiring supplementation for medical reasons
  • Inducing milk supply for an adopted baby
  • Bonding and potential supply stimulation for non-lactating female partner
  • Supplementing when a history of breast surgery limits lactation


Benefits of using a Supplemental Nursing System:

  • Maintain Breastfeeding as a priority even in circumstances of low supply
  • Provide stimulation to increase supply while still ensuring adequate intake
  • Nurtures mothers breastfeeding confidence and skills
  • Avoids artificial teats
  • Beneficial to premature babies who tire easily
  • Skin-to-skin contact


Is a Supplemental Nursing System right for me?

  • The decision to use a supply line when feeding must always be made in conjunction with a health professional/lactation consultant to determine if SNS the suitable choice for you.
  • Baby must be able to attach well to the breast
  • Sterilised and appropriate equipment required
  • SNS will not be for everyone! If not, other alternatives may be available such as cup feeding of bottles with a slow teat. A lactation consultant would be best to help you determine what is right for you!


How long will you need to use a Supplemental Nursing System?

This varies widely depending on individual circumstances! If you know you are never going to achieve a full milk supply for whatever reason, you may need to use at-the-breast supplementation for the duration of your breastfeeding journey!

Written by Keryn Thompson RM & IBCLC (L-301766)


Australian Breastfeeding Association. 2016. Using a breastfeeding supplementer. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 March 2021].

Eidelman, A., 2017. Supplementary Feeding of Breastfeeding Infants. Breastfeeding Medicine, 12(4), pp.187-187.

Medela. 2016. Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 March 2021].

Pierro, J., Abulaimoun, B., Roth, P. and Blau, J., 2016. Factors Associated with Supplemental Formula Feeding of Breastfeeding Infants During Postpartum Hospital Stay. Breastfeeding Medicine, 11(4), pp.196-202.

Swisher, A. and Lauwers, J., 2016. Counselling the Nursing Mother. A Lactation Consultant's Guide/ Jones & Bartlett Learning. 6th ed.

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