I had a very difficult time breastfeeding my daughter. I had never heard of tongue tie, and it was never suggested to me despite me seeking help from various sources. Looking back, it seems obvious. She was very unsettled in general, was tense and wriggly during feeds, and made clicking noises. She would often scream and writhe around after a feed, and struggled to bring up wind. Feeding was uncomfortable for me, and she could not flare her lips out. She didn’t settle to sleep well and barely seemed to nap, yet was obviously tired. She had green, frothy, explosive poos. I regularly suffered from mastitis and blocked ducts, and became very depressed.
To help me cope, my husband gave her a bottle of expressed or formula milk every evening, which did seem to settle her. We also reluctantly gave her a dummy to help her to sleep, and this made a huge difference. Breastfeeding slowly improved over the first year, and she self-weaned at 15 months, when I was a few months pregnant.
I was determined that things would go better second time round. My son was born at home, a straightforward delivery and a healthy baby. We
spent a long time relaxing together, skin-to-skin, and while he bobbed about and rooted, he did not manage to latch on. In the end I had to express and feed him with a syringe for the first few days. I had a lot of support from my doula, from my LLL leader and from fellow NCT students. He made brave attempts to latch on, but could not form a seal and would slip straight off. It was not usually painful, but felt ’scrapey’, and my nipple would come out blanched and squashed.
Like my daughter, he was fussy, tense, screamed a lot – but he was worse – he wanted to be held upright all the time and did not sleep for more than an hour or two at a stretch. We were both miserable. Tongue tie was suggested – at first I was resistant to the idea but when I read more about it, it all made sense. We were referred for a division, and a posterior tie was diagnosed and snipped. His feeding and behaviour improved, but it then went downhill and we found the tie had re-attached. A second division did not seem to help at all and I resigned myself to another terrible breastfeeding journey.
He was displaying all the symptoms of silent reflux, and while Isuspected this was a result of his poor latch, tongue tie division had not resolved our issues so I decided to see the GP. He was prescribed medication, which he continued to take for the rest of his first year. I also tried cutting out dairy, caffeine, and other suspect foods, but could not see any obvious difference. He was also referred to a paediatrician, who did not believe that tongue tie affected breastfeeding, or that there was any link with reflux.
Like with my daughter, his latch gradually improved over the first year or so. To give him the best chance at breastfeeding successfully, I had decided not to use any bottles or dummies – we did try once with a bottle but his feeding was no better and he took in a lot of air and very little milk. I persevered through repeated bouts of mastitis and engorgement, screaming and sleepless nights.
Telling you this story, I feel a great sense of sadness and frustration. While I had a lot of support second time round, the health professionals involved did not seem to agree on what was going on. I was fobbed off with ’he is gaining weight well, so he must be fine’. I spent a lot of time researching tongue tie and reflux, but felt very much on my own, and torn between conflicting opinions and advice. I was constantly stressed about what I should do for the best, and worried about future outcomes for my son. Again, I became depressed during this time and had to seek help from my health visitor. I hate that I still do not know the answer, and I am sad that we will not have any more children, as the prospect of another similar experience makes it not worth the risk – the potential impact on my own mental health and on my other children is too great. But I am delighted with the children we do have!
My daughter is now 3 ½, sleeps and eats well and is very bright and chatty. My son is 21 months old, sleeps well, talks extremely well for his age, and articulates clearly. He is also breastfeeding very happily.