I am currently pursuing a career in primary care and midwifery in large part because of my experiences with tongue-tie and breastfeeding. In my future practice, I want to be like the one person who finally helped me and my son.
My son was born by c-section (he was breech at the last minute) and I was told that sometimes this leads to a little difficulty breastfeeding. Once I woke up in the hospital, I tried to feed but I couldn’t seem to get him to latch on just right. I called for a lactation consultant and she told me everything was fine, but I knew that, even through all the Ibuprofen and whatever else I had going on, breastfeeding hurt!
I tried for two weeks to get the latch to go on right. Everything looked the way LLL described, but it didn’t feel right, it was like sandpaper on my nipples and they were cracked and bleeding. I asked everyone — the lactation consultant when I was crying with the pain three weeks out; the pediatrician; my naturopath. I was told it was thrush. I was told that he is latching fine, he is getting enough milk (after 30 or 40 minutes). It seemed to me that everyone was just guessing.
I could get him on the breast ok (at least to start), but it only worked if I did everything in the LLL book exactly right. I saw several providers over the next couple of months, with no more progression of the issue. My son never lacked in weight gain, and I believe this was solely due to his (even now) very persistent personality. For three months, I fed him nearly around the clock. Not uncommon for a month old to two-month old child, but coupled with nearly constant horrible pain in my breasts and nipples, I didn’t know how much more I could take.
Whenever I had a free moment, I poured over the Internet and I looked at every picture and video of proper feeding. There were some characteristics of his feeding that caused me to suspect tongue tie. I heard clicking when he fed, he would arch away while clamping on the breast, he would pop on and off frequently. His tongue extended past the gum line a little; it was not heart-shaped but not pointy either. His pediatrician briefly looked in his mouth, and said the tongue “did weird things” and said that the feeding difficulty was probably behavioral. I specifically mentioned the posterior variety to my lactation consultant, having finally run across this often-hidden form on the LLL website. She too quickly glanced in his mouth and said there was no tongue tie.
I was then advised that he must be eating too much, and to insist that he only feed 20 minutes every two hours (he was almost 3 months old then). This did seem to work, as he was not as fussy for a couple of days. But then the fussiness came back, and also I became concerned about dehydration. Since I didn’t believe that any of my doctors would change their minds, (especially after reviewing the literature and realizing that tongue tie is not even really taught about in med school) I contacted a lactation consultant long-distance who specifically mentioned posterior tongue tie on her website. I knew that, if she said he didn’t have it, I could be sure he didn’t have it.
After explaining our situation for a bit, she instructed me on how to do what she called a “Murphy Sweep” in his mouth. In the middle of the tongue, my finger met with resistance. She said this was indeed a posterior tongue tie. She explained that many doctors and even lactation consultants are not taught about tongue ties, especially not posterior tongue ties, and especially not in relation to breastfeeding. She told me that she didn’t think he was feeding just for comfort, or more than he needed to. She advised that, if I chose, I could try encouraging the tongue to stretch out with exercises, but that a frenotomy would likely relieve the feeding difficulties. After 3 months of pain (and about to go back to work) I was ready to take care of the issue. On the new lactation consultant’s advice, I pumped exclusively for the week before our appointment to get the tie snipped, in order to let my nipples heal.
I didn’t know what I would do next, if this procedure did not work out. But I knew that I wanted at least one more year if not more of breastfeeding, and I couldn’t go on with the pain I’d been having. Before examining my son, the doctor said that he would do it if it were likely to help with breastfeeding, but if not, “it doesn’t last forever.” Probably assumes everyone is on the six month plan; even if I were, three months pain free would be well worth it to me! It turned out the doctor agreed snipping the tongue tie would be beneficial; it took a few seconds and my son cried about as much as he would for a shot. I immediately breastfed him, for comfort. Within seconds, I thought to myself, “THAT is swallowing! THAT is “suck..pause…swallow!” I realized that I had never really seen it until that moment. He nursed for minutes, rather than his usual 30-40, and fell asleep.
It did take a couple of weeks for him to get up to speed with his new tongue, but after that his nursing times decreased to about 5 minutes per side, he didn’t cry afterward or 20 minutes later, he nursed in all kinds of positions (even eyeing the TV or watching Dad with his head tilted to the side) with no issue. When he started getting teeth and biting, making breastfeeding painful once again, I didn’t give up on it then – after fighting through pain and misery for 3 months, I was not about to give up breastfeeding for that! He is almost two, still breastfeeding three times a day (though briefly and he eats full meals of solids!) I’m so glad we still have that breastfeeding relationship that he so obviously enjoys (and so do I).
By the way, I have a slightly more detailed version if it happened to be helpful. So glad you are sharing these stories. Hopefully it will give a lot of women hope to carry on in breastfeeding, and information to resolve their problems as well!