This latest Tongue Tie story is from Lou Hirst, mother of two and doula. Her story shows that tongue tied babies can still put on lots of weight and their ties can therefore be easily missed. It is not until someone skilled enough to be able to assess the whole breastfeeding relationship spends time with the mother and baby are these ties found. So many babies still fall through the net and their breastfeeding relationship shortened because of it.
My breastfeeding journey did not start out how I anticipated. I went on maternity leave at 6 months pregnant, so spent the time before George was born watching breastfeeding videos, calling breastfeeding helplines
with questions that came up from my research, and even completed a breastfeeding diploma through NEST. I guess you could say I was fascinated about breastfeeding before I even experienced it myself. So it was the one thing I felt really confident about in my last few weeks of pregnancy and my mind was totally focused on getting baby out safely. Little did I realise how wrong I was!
George had a difficult entrance to the world. He was born via forceps after a failed Ventouse. His face looked battered and bruised and he then quickly developed Jaundice later-on that day. I had haemorrhaged so was pretty poorly too. We spent three days in hospital and due to him not latching and being extremely sleepy I was focused on protecting my milk supply by pumping regularly. I syringe /finger fed him for the first couple of weeks with my expressed milk and we even used some milk from the milk bank in hospital. I tried to latch at each feed first, before resorting to the syringe. We saw a cranial osteopath and after a couple of weeks he was solely feeding from me which was a very special moment. ‘We’ve finally got there!’, I thought.
Sadly this wasn’t the end of our uphill struggle. George spent the first three months of life feeding for 10 minutes at a time, every hour and a half, 24/7. At the beginning, of course, I just thought this was probably normal newborn behaviour and that he was just an efficient feeder. I had an abundance of milk and he only lost 3% of his birth weight so no one was concerned. I had little pain, just a chafing feeling which to be honest I just became hardened to. It was only three months in when this was still happening, and his nappies became green and frothy, and we had a baby who screamed blue murder every single night that I felt something wasn’t right. I sought help from the breastfeeding café at the John Radcliffe Hospital (who suggested trying the biological nursing position), community midwives and health visitors (who told me if he was putting on weight then all must be fine), my GP (who prescribed Gaviscon for Reflux, which I refused to administer!) and breastfeeding helplines. But still no answers. I just knew in my gut something was not right. In the end enough was enough and I paid privately to see a Lactation Consultant. I emailed her with a description of his symptoms and detailed my concerns and straight away she flagged tongue tie. She came within 48 hours and on examination confirmed a posterior tie. I hugged her and burst into tears! I was exhausted, angry, relieved, sad, concerned and scared. Petrified of the thought of my gorgeous boy having to go through such a horrid procedure- would it hurt him and would he then reject the breast? Concerned that we would both have to learn a whole new way of feeding and go right back to basics. Relieved that finally we had an answer and it wasn’t anything I had done wrong! Angry that it had taken this long to get an answer. My poor little baby.
The division wasn’t pleasant I’ll be honest. The consultant, Mervyn Griffiths, a celebrity in the field of tongue tie, was so sensitive and caring in his approach with really helped. I trusted him implicitly but couldn’t wait to get out of there and for this whole episode to be over. The drive down to his clinic in Southampton seemed to take an age. I remember staring at George in his car seat feeling sick to the pit of my stomach at what I was about to put him through, and that night not wanting to put him down for a second. I kept reminding myself of all the benefits of the procedure we’d been told about, his speech and language development for example. All I had to do now was persevere with the feeding and hope that the procedure had worked.
It took roughly two weeks for George to feed ‘normally’ again and for me to feel confident in my ability. He was not (and still isn’t!) the best sleeper but it definitely stopped the chafing feeling, the explosive nappies and the screaming episodes. That was enough for me! I could cope with the endless feeding, and actually I quite enjoyed it. I still miss it today.
When my daughter was born in 2016 we asked the paediatrician to check for tongue tie at the 24 hour check and she had her posterior tie divided at four days old. The breastfeeding journey with her was a beautiful experience, I am thrilled to say.
I feel SO proud that I managed to feed both babies to 17 months, particularly with the challenges I faced with my firstborn. This experience has given me a real passion and determination to support other breastfeeding parents on their journey and to learn more and more about such an important subject, hopefully becoming a breastfeeding counsellor one day…