Give your baby a top-up as they feed from your breast.
A supply line (also called a breastfeeding supplementer) is a device that allows a baby to receive extra milk at the breast rather than by bottle and teat.
It consists of a container that is worn on a cord around your neck and fine tubing. This tubing carries expressed breastmilk or formula from the container to your breast. When your baby sucks at the breast, they draw the milk through the tubing into their mouth, along with any milk from the breast.
A supply line allows you to fully breastfeed while giving your baby extra milk, which could be your own expressed breastmilk, donor human milk or formula.
A supply line can help you to start and keep going with breastfeeding if:
Your baby is premature or sick and unable to suck well.
You have problems breastfeeding due to the shape of your nipples or previous breast surgery.
You don’t have enough milk-making tissue in your breasts to make a full supply of milk for your baby.
You and your baby have had a difficult birth, causing a setback to the start of breastfeeding.
You have a very low supply that you are trying to increase.
You have weaned and are trying to relactate.
You are trying to bring in a milk supply to feed your adopted baby, your baby born by surrogacy or your baby born to your partner.
When your baby needs extra milk, it's better to give it through a supply line than by a bottle..
Milk given in this way rewards your baby's efforts at sucking. They are more likely to be happy to feed from the breast and stay there for a longer time.
This extra sucking will increase your milk supply because it helps your let-down reflex and stimulates your breast. The amount of milk you make depends on how much your baby sucks and takes from your breasts.
If your baby gets tired easily, using your own expressed breastmilk in the supply line can help your baby get more milk with the same amount of sucking.
The way a baby sucks the breast is different from the way they suck a bottle. Some babies find it hard to do both. If you feed them with a bottle, they may reject your breast.
You can use the supply line for only a short while or long term.
Is a supply line right for me?
For a supply line to work satisfactorily, your baby must be able to suck well at the breast, even if they get tired easily.
If your baby has a poor or abnormal suck, they may not be able to get the milk through the tubing any better than from the breast itself.
If your baby is unwell or not yet able to suck, you may need to get help to feed some other way, for example using finger feeding or with a cup.
If you are having problems getting breastfeeding started, you may well be able to overcome them without using a supply line. Often all you need is information and support. Talking the problem over with someone who understands and who knows a lot about breastfeeding can help you work through any problems.
An ABA counsellor can give you information and suggestions to help.
Supply lines may be fiddly to use at the start but they become easier to use with practice. It’s important to follow instructions for use and for cleaning of the various parts.
Seeing a supply line being inserted and a baby sucking using it can be helpful.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022
Evidence-led info and practical tips from our Special Situation Information Series