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Blog Archive

Periodontal Syringe Use

November 2015

Here is week two of the November series on breastfeeding devices.  This is a photo of the curved-tip periodontal syringe made by Monoject, which will hold 12cc of fluid.  Although originally designed for use in dental procedures, Lactation Consultants have been using them to work with breastfed infants who need supplementation or any reason.  The periodontal syringe can be used for direct, at-the-breast supplementation or with finger-feeding.  It should never, though, be used to squirt milk into the mouth of an infant or for the infant to suck at the tip of the syringe.

Different IBCLCs employ different techniques when using the periodontal syringe. Over the years, I have developed a technique that works well for me in various situations.

  • Holding the syringe in my gloved right hand, I wrap three fingers around the barrel of the syringe (middle to little finger), the pointer finger around the plunger, and thumb on top of the plunger. The finger wrapped around the plunger allows me to control the amount of supplement pushed into the baby's mouth.
  • Baby should be in a semi-upright position, held by a parent.
  • With my left hand, also gloved, I elicit the wide oral gape from the baby by tickling his top lip and asking permission to enter his mouth. My pointer finger is rotated to that the nailbed is down against the baby's tongue, the finger pad is against the upper palate.
  • Baby's lips should be flanged outward, to simulate breastfeeding positioning, and he should be actively sucking to take the finger tip to the junction of the hard and soft palates.
  • The syringe is rotated to facilitate the tip of it entering the corner of baby's mouth. No more than the tip should enter the mouth, and all pressure of the syringe is against my finger of the left hand.
  • I work to maintain a seal by baby's lips over my finger and the syringe tip throughout the feeding.
  • With active sucking, I provide a small amount of supplement, 1/2 to 1 cc at a time, through the syringe and into baby's mouth.
  • When baby stops sucking, the supplement is stopped, once again imitating the breastfeeding process.
  • Note: although this syringe will hold 12cc when completely full, it is very difficult to manage use of the syringe and control the flow with it filled to the maximum. I will use only 5-6cc at a time when supplementing.

Although any syringe can be used to finger-feed for supplementation, it has been my experience a syringe with a hub is next-to-impossible to achieve and maintain good suction by the baby. With a good seal, many babies can take in the amount they desire without you having to "push" it in via the plunger.


Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA
Course Tutor, Step2 Education






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