Alison Hazelbaker, PhD, IBCLC, FILCA, CST, RCST

spiritofhealingllc@gmail.com (614) 326-3504

Dr. Hazelbaker specializes in cross-disciplinary treatment and to that end has taken training in several modalities to best assist her clients. She is a certified Craniosacral Therapist, a Lymph Drainage Therapy practitioner, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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Hazelbaker Finger Feeder

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What is Finger-Feeding?

Finger-feeding, a substitute technique for breastfeeding, has probably existed for thousands of years as a way to keep a baby fed who has difficulties going to breast or who needs to be separated from mother for any length of time. 

Finger-feeding provides the touch of human skin, as in breastfeeding, for optimal infant to caregiver feedback and to allow the baby to pace the feed. The caregiver’s finger, placed correctly in the baby’s mouth, either encourages the baby’s tongue to come down and forward into its proper placement for breastfeeding or preserves the tongue’s optimal function so that the baby can maintain proper suck-swallow-breathe coordination. 

Finger-feeding, for example, might be used after a baby receives a frenotomy for tongue-tie or for a baby with low intro-oral tone, as a therapeutic method to strengthen the tongue and other intra-oral muscles. Other sucking problems also respond well to this alternative feeding method when it is used for therapeutic reasons.

Testimonial

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“If only I had known ... if only my lactation consultant had known...There is no doubt in my mind that had I known about and been able to use the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder my breastfeeding experience would have been far more successful. "

Margaret
Columbus, Ohio

"Thanks again for inventing such a great device."

Carmit & Eyal 
Israel

"I found the FingerFeeder to be user friendly; its design is compact and makes finger-feeding easy to implement quickly. If it hadn’t been for the Hazelbaker™ Finger Feeder, I surely would have given up on breastfeeding." 

Jessica
Columbus, Ohio


"I think the FingerFeeder is a great little device: It’s easy; anyone can learn to use it; it is easy to keep clean and put together. It saved my breastfeeding relationship with Aidan."

Aime
Columbus, Ohio

 

Advantages of Finger-Feeding and the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder

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 Controlled Flow Rate: Milk flows too fast from bottles for most babies. This overwhelming milk flow creates some mild to significant problems for the baby, especially if she or he is experiencing sucking problems. When babies cannot tolerate the flow, they suspend breathing, may cough, sputter or choke during the feed. The baby may develop a compensatory tongue movement pattern that protects the airway but does not efficiently remove milk from the breast. If a baby changes the way they suck because of bottle-feeding, known as Nipple Confusion, they will need to be retrained to suck properly at breast.

A baby may become addicted to the faster flow from the bottle. This Flow Preference, as it is commonly called, causes the baby to become impatient and frustrated at breast. Because the baby has become used to instant flow gratification as soon as the bottle touches his or her tongue, they often will not remain at breast long enough to pull milk out, expecting instant flow gratification at breast just as o the bottle.

Although switching to a slower flow bottle teat can help with these problems, finger-feeding with the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder prevents the development of these problems. The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder requires the baby to pace the feed. Milk will not flow unless the baby exerts effort that mimics good sucking at breast. As a built in feature of the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder, this infant control can be augmented by a gentle squeeze of the milk container should the baby not be able to generate adequate negative pressure to draw milk from the device. However, the top will pop off if the caregiver squeezes too hard thereby ensuring that the baby’s airway is protected from a flow rate that overwhelms their ability.

Easy Handling: Other finger feeding devices, many makeshift and difficult to handle, do not have built-in pacing features. Those that require the caregiver to push down on a syringe plunger may require added finger and arm strength and guarantee that the flow of milk will be inconsistent, robbing the baby of the opportunity to pace their own feed.

Many other finger feeding devices require two hands. Using two hands for feeding complicates the feed unnecessarily. As well, other devices must be placed either on a table or in the bra. These placements increase instability of the device making finger feeding more precarious and involved. The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder was designed to be easily used in one hand, ensuring feed consistency and ease while freeing up the opposite arm and hand to provide postural stability to the baby for optimal feeding and to cuddle.

Flexible Tubing: Others have very stiff tubing. Stiff tubing causes some babies to reject feedings; the firmness of the tube creates discomfort at the hard palate. Conversely, if the tube is too soft, it will collapse, preventing milk flow, when the baby exerts negative pressure during sucking.

Better Results: The devices that sit next to the mother on a table have long tubes. The extra length requires that the caregiver assist with the feed by manipulating the device if the baby cannot produce enough negative pressure. Longer tubing also demands greater intra-oral pressures to pull the milk through the tubing, a problem for many babies experiencing breastfeeding difficulties. Either way, optimal feed pacing can be undermined using these devices. The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder eliminates these concerns: its tubing is the perfect length to ensure proper feeding technique.

Easy Assembly and Cleaning: The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder has only a few parts that assemble easily. It takes but one try to learn how to put it together correctly. This efficient design also makes it easier to keep clean. Instructions for proper assembly and cleaning come with the device.

Durable: Unlike many other devices used for finger-feeding, The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder is durable and can be used indefinitely for the same baby. It can be sanitized and sterilized making it ideal for longer-term use when indicated. Other devices must be disposed after one or two uses and/or are destroyed or damaged during sterilization.

 

Instructions for Finger Feeding

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  • Position yourself and baby in a proper feeding position such as that shown in the photo. Placing a pillow under baby will make feeding more comfortable for both of you by raising the baby to chest height.


  • Young babies tend to orient to the right so holding the baby with your left hand and finger-feeding with your right can capitalize on this tendency. However, you may use whichever side you and your baby feel most comfortable using.

  • Keep your shoulders and elbows down and relaxed to reduce muscle strain. Support yourself with extra pillows if needed to achieve this goal.

  • Gently tickle your baby’s lower lip in the middle, in an up and down direction to elicit both the rooting and tongue extrusion reflexes. Keep tickling, just as you would with the breast or bottle, until the baby opens as wide as he or she can.

  • When you see the “gape,” gently insert your finger, pad up, against the hard palate near the upper gumline. The baby will bring up his or her tongue to create a seal around your finger. If your baby is still tongue-tied or is weak, he or she may not do this well. Eventually, this ability will improve.

  • As the baby starts the sucking sequence, move your finger back to near the hard and soft palate juncture where the breast nipple would go if the baby were at breast. While moving your finger back, keep your finger pad in gentle contact with the hard palate. If your finger drops down on the tongue, your baby may gag.

  • Once you have reached the appropriate “landmark,” keep your finger in the same position and stationary unless your therapist directs you to perform certain movements. There is usually no need to squeeze the bulb unless your baby needs a therapeutic reminder or is so weak that he or she needs a little extra help. Allow the baby to set the pace. He or she will do best synchronizing suck, swallow and breathe if allowed to determine the right pace for that feed.

  • Typically, when satisfied, your baby will stop sucking or will try to push your finger out of his or her mouth using his or her tongue. At this point, your baby is either full or needs to burp. Young babies older than a few days need from ¾ to 1½ oz. per feed. Older babies may need more. Follow your baby’s lead. The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder holds 2 oz. and is easy to refill mid-feed as needed.

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    History of the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder

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    In 1988, I stand in the parking lot of our Phoenix meeting place, lamenting the absence of an effective device for finger feeding. My colleague, Anne, commiserates. I become excited. I look over at Anne and say “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a device that fits in one hand that has an attached tube ?” I trace the path of the tubing on my hand. She nods. “No more NG tubes. No more hard to push syringes. No more leaking. No more fumbling.”

    Suddenly, a full color image pops into my head. I can barely contain myself. “I think I have an idea.” She nods her understanding. “I’ve got to go to the drugstore to see if I can find parts.” I hop into my car and drive to the drugstore closest to my home. I find travel bottles of several shapes, colors and sizes. I look for anything that could serve as tubing. When I get home, I take my goodies out of their plastic bag and start to play. My three daughters crowd around me asking questions. ”Mommy’s trying to create a feeding device” is all I can say. I am fully absorbed in the task at hand.

    I play and play for weeks trying different sizes and configurations. In the mean time, I contact a major pump company to see if they might be interested in designing and manufacturing a device for finger feeding. They are not. I then contact Medela. Some interest on their part: I feel elated. The idea gets kicked upstairs. Richard Weston, the then National Sales Director, becomes excited about the project; his baby was recently in the NICU and could have used a device like the one I was proposing. We enter into negotiations. This process takes many years, a team of lawyers and lots of discussion.

    Brian Silver becomes my engineering contact at Medela. I send him rough sketches and my actual amateur prototypes. He sends back sketches and asks many, many questions. His engineers are busy and Medela has several new products in their design queue, but they commit themselves fully to the task of designing a quality product.

    Months pass. We work through design glitches, design and execute an efficacy study, apply for the patent and plan marketing materials and strategies. I work as a consultant to assist with these processes. Finally we have a usable prototype; and it looks remarkably similar to the original picture that flashed into my head on that hot day in 1988! I am informed at this point that Medela wants to put my last name on the product. I feel uncomfortable about this idea but their confidence that this strategy will make the product more memorable quells my concerns.

    We move forward on contract finalization and make plans for product launch. The ILCA conference provides the perfect opportunity. The year is 1993.

    The launch goes well and we get down to the business of selling product and gathering feedback about its use in the “real world” of lactation consulting. The product gains favor gradually. 10 years fly by. The Hazelbaker™  FingerFeeder has its devotees. Medela decides to change its marketing strategy and so chooses to discontinue the device. We begin the process of transitioning from Medela’s distribution to mine, according to our contract. I form a special little company, named after my two precious grandchildren (both who needed some finger feeding to transition them to exclusive breastfeeding,) to handle the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of the Hazelbaker ™ FingerFeeder.

    I start climbing a steep learning curve. I know nothing about manufacturing, or FDA regulations. It takes me five months to get up to speed. Orders for product pour in. Finally, our marketing pieces at the ready, we receive our first packaged batch. In one frenzied week, we satisfy all our backorders. It is now March 2008. By The next year, manufacturing and distribution go well and we receive multiple inquiries from around the world. My learning curve becomes steep once again. Selling overseas has its challenges.

    I choose to let-go of the United States distribution and enter into an agreement with Hygeia so that I can concentrate on overseas marketing and distribution. Hygeia, provider of breastpumps and other breastfeeding devices, is a good match. Their expert and experienced team knows just how to position the device in the market and get it into the hands of the people who need it the most while being able to handle the increasing market demand.

    I invite you to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with this simple yet effective specialty feeding device that has helped thousands of breastfeeding infants the world over.

     

    Alison K. Hazelbaker, PhD, IBCLC, RLC, CST, RCST

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    Dr. Hazelbaker has been a therapist for nearly 27 years. She specializes in cross-disciplinary treatment and to that end has taken training in several modalities to best assist her clients. She is a certified Craniosacral Therapist, a Lymph Drainage Therapy practitioner, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

    Along with CranioSacral Therapy and Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, Dr. Hazelbaker utilizes botanicals and homeopathy in her lactation practice. Her willingness to address breastfeeding problems from a variety of perspectives, meting mothers where they are at philosophically, has earned her the respect of her peers and her client population.

    She earned her undergraduate degree from New York University, Her master’s Degree from Pacific Oaks College (Human Development specializing in Human Lactation) and her doctorate from The Union Institute and University (Psychology, specializing in Energetic and Transformational healing.)

    Her original research on tongue-tie, done in 1993, has changed clinical practice both in the USA and abroad. (www.tongue-tie.org) She authored the Assessment Tool for Lingual Frenulum Function (ATLFF) during her Master’s Degree program. The ATLFF remains the only research-based tongue-tie screening process in infants under 6 months. People recognize her as an expert on infant sucking issues and the treatment of same. As an innovator, she invented the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder to address these sucking problems.

    Dr. Hazelbaker authored multiple monographs and articles on lactation theory and management, served on the JHL Editorial Review board for more than a decade and reviews monographs, books and DVDs for the JHL and the ILCA Globe.

    She speaks on a variety of human development, lactation management and lactation theory topics, including the use of finger feeding as a therapeutic and clinical strategy and the assessment and treatment of tongue-tie.

    She recently revised her Master’s thesis on tongue-tie into a comprehensive book on the condition: Tongue-tie: Morphogenesis, Impact, Assessment and Treatment for Hale Publishing. (www.iBreastfeeding.com.) Her doctoral dissertation “Toward a Unified Theory of Healing: a Grounded Theory Study” was nominated for the Marvin B. Sussman Award for Academic Excellence. She is currently revising it into a book. She co-authored Coming Back from the Border: Adult Children Reclaim their Authentic Selves from The Borderline Personality Disorder Dynamic with Dr. Laura Hausman.

    Dr. Hazelbaker speaks on a variety of lactation management and lactation theory topics, including the use of finger feeding as a therapeutic and clinical strategy. (www.Lactspeak.com). You can find some of her presentations on the web at USLCAonline.org and www.leron-line.com.

    Dr. Hazelbaker, a long-time La Léchè League Leader, mothered five children through breastfeeding and has two wonderful breastfed grandchildren, Aidan and Éva.

    FAQ's

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    What is finger-feeding?

    Finger-feeding is an alternative feeding method for use when an infant cannot go to breast because of various medical problems, sucking issues, or because he or she is separated temporarily from his or her mother. The caregiver attaches a tube to one of his or her fingers. The tube connects to a container held in the hand. Then he or she gently inserts his or her finger into the baby’s mouth. The baby sucks simultaneously on the caregiver’s finger and the tube and is able to get milk.

    Why finger-feed rather than bottle-feed or cup feed?

    Bottle-feeding and cup feeding both carry some risks. Bottle-feeding, with its fast flow, can create nipple confusion or flow preference. Once a baby has been bottle-fed, they may not easily go back to breast and will need to be retrained. Cup feeding can present two issues: 1. The baby must lap milk from the cup or cup feeding device. This creates a lot of spillage. It is hard to know how much milk a baby takes in using this method; and 2. Long term use of cup feeding dampens the suck reflex making it harder for a baby to transition back to breast.

    Additionally, finger-feeding confers advantages. The touch of human skin may influence the release of oxytocin in both caregiver and baby enhancing bonding and relaxation. The baby paces the finger-feed, a relative challenge during bottle or cup feeding. No leakage occurs during finger-feeding when the right technique and device are utilized.  Finger-feeding encourages and even cultivates proper infant sucking. This is why it is becoming more and more popular as a technique when suck therapy is required.

    What other finger-feeding devices exist?

    Several makeshift devices can be fabricated for finger-feeding. Syringes with tubes attached, long tubes inserted into bottles, using supplementers designed for at breast use, etc. None of these devices is approved by the FDA for finger- feeding use. These devices may also be more difficult to handle during finger- feeding, requiring two hands.

    What is the advantage of the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder over other finger- feeding devices?

    • FDA approved
    • Designed specifically for finger-feeding
    • One handed use
    • Baby paces the feed
    • Skin to skin contact maximized
    • No leakage
    • Easy to assemble and clean
    • BPA free
    • Can be used over and over with a single baby
    • Sterilizable
    • Durable
    • Affordable

     

    Where do I get the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder?

    In the United States, The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder is available directly from Aidan and Éva, LLC. This item is not currently available for purchase outside of the United States.

    How do I finger-feed?

    Finger-feeding is easy; even a 10 year old can learn. Complete instructions are included in every package. See our page on this website for brief instructions. Instructions page link here.

     When and how long should I finger-feed?

    That depends on the needs of your baby and his or her particular issue. Your therapist will be the best source of information on how often, and how long. Some parents finger-feed instead of bottle feed when mom has to go back to work outside the home. In these instances, finger-feeding can be successfully combined with breastfeeding for as long as your baby needs an alternative feeding method.

    Breastfeeding still remains the ideal way to feed babies. Finger-feeding should be used only as a means to correct sucking problems or to keep the baby well fed until he or she can go to breast.

    Is there any research on finger-feeding?

    One study in Australia found that finger-feeding as part of the feeding regimen ensured that a larger percentage of babies in the NICU were able to transition to breast successfully, whereas their bottle-feeding counterparts were less likely to do so. No other study has looked at finger-feeding. Our experience with finger- feeding is based on the many babies finger-fed every day.

    Is the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder FDA approved?

    During the development phase of the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder, a study was conducted by an independent researcher who found it to be safe and effective. This study, a requirement of the FDA, demonstrated that the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder was able to meet the FDA’s stringent requirements for infant feeding devices. The FDA approved the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder on this basis. At this time, the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder is the only device approved by the FDA for finger-feeding.

    Are the materials used to make the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder safe for baby?

    The medical grade silicon used for the tube, the valve membrane and milk container are FDA approved for infant feeding devices. The plastic used in the cap and tube clamp are BPA free and is also approved for infant feeding devices.

    No reports of problems have ever been made about this device. Its safety record is pristine.

    How do I clean the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder?

    Washing in warm soapy suds after each use followed by rinsing with warm clear water cleans the Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder after each use. The Hazelbaker™ FingerFeeder can also be sanitized in the dishwasher or microwave and is sterilizable by boiling or in an autoclave. Detailed cleaning instructions come in the package with the device.

     

     

    Links

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    Breastfeeding Organizations

    Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine: www.bfmed.org

    International Lactation Consultant Association: www.ILCA.org

    International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners: www.IBLCE.org

    La Leche League International: www.llli.org

    United States Lactation Consultant Association: www.uslcaonline.org

    Links to Dr. Hazelbaker’s Presentations

    www.tongue-tie.org

    www.leron-line.com

    www.Lactspeak.com

    www.USLCAonline.org

    Publishers of Quality Breastfeeding Books

    Hale Publishers: www.iBreastfeeding.com

    Jones and Bartlett: www.jbpub.com

    La Leche League International: www.llli.org

    Mosby: www.mosby.com