Aug 20, 2014

Everything you never wanted to know about tongue ties and breastfeeding

I have literally been trying to type this post for 5 days.... wish me luck.

***Warning: this post contains lots of mummy-jargon. If you don't want to read about breastfeeding in great detail, turn back now!***

Everyone tells you that motherhood is hard. And it is hard - but in ways that you couldn't prepare for even if you knew what was coming.

Our sweet little bundle of happiness starting getting a little bit aggro whilst feeding when she was about a week and a half old. I felt like something was really wrong but I didn't have the jargon or experience to really know or explain what was happening. I googled "why is my baby crying during feeds" more times than I can count, and the possible reasons were so numerous it was overwhelming. I started painfully eliminating all the possible suspects - we bought reflux medication incase it was silent reflux (also known as GERD which stands for Gastrointestinal something something); I applied antifungal gel incase the white film on her tongue was the problem; burped her furiously; and ruled out over-supply and hyperactive letdown.

In a few short weeks I was swimming in a sea of scary terms and my brain was so, so tired of trouble shooting. I just wished someone would come and feed my baby for me. Like a wet-nurse from the olden days...

I sought help from Plunket, a breastfeeding clinic, midwife, and ran it past the pediatrician, but no-one really was any help. They suggested the things I had already ruled out and it just made me feel more hopeless.

Ella's screaming during feeds got worse and there was a point where I never saw her happy - from the moment I tried to feed her after waking, until she cried herself to sleep, she was unhappy. The only time she seemed herself was when she first woke up (before the feed) or when she was distracted by something else.


I KNEW this was not my baby. Her natural personality is one of the sweetest and most placid around. But she was only a few weeks old and people told me 'it's normal for them to get more fussy around this time'.

She started to be permanently overtired because she wouldn't fall asleep for naps. I NOW realise this was because she wasn't feeding properly. At the time however, I thought maybe she wasn't feeding properly because she was too tired. And I thought that meant I should be sleep-training her. Which I attempted for a while but it was horrible - try putting a hungry baby to bed and see what happens!

All this time I didn't realise know if she even WANTED to feed or not. I thought maybe she wasn't hungry.... but then it she started doing it on every. single. feed and I realised she must be hungry but something, something, SOMETHING was stopping her from feeding.

One day I took a video and it wasn't until then that it really hit me how bad it was. The video showed her latching on, trying to swallow, pulling off, screaming.... and screaming and screaming. It was horrible to watch and realise that this is what I'd been putting up with for, umm, 9 weeks!

The next day we splurged for a private lactation consultant. I'd been on the waiting list for a free Plunket appointment but the waits were several weeks.

Anyway, the consultant popped a finger in Ella's mouth as soon as she arrived, and immediately declared a tongue tie, a lip tie, and a high palate.
(Interestingly, tongue ties are a controversial topic in the medical realm with some doctor's calling it 'a bit of a fad' and saying it doesn't affect feeding... I joined a support group and let me tell you that the evidence from these women about the effect on feeding is overwhelming!)

From there we went in for laser surgery for Ella. It was horrible and we both felt pretty shaken after witnessing it. But... I was glad to have found a diagnosis and so relieved that I would soon be able to feed my child without all those issues. You know, because feeding your baby is a built-in instinct and it kills you to be unable to do it!
My happy girl on the morning of the surgery. Actually tho, she was really antsy that day and soiled 4 whole outfits before the surgery. It's almost like she knew what was coming. :s

Well, that was 12 days ago and I'm still struggling to get this girl fed.... she gets so frustrated and upset when she's trying to feed and now we have further issues thanks to a low milk supply (caused by the bad feeding because breastmilk is a supply-and-demand issue) and the fact that she is now accustomed to a bottle. Tongue-tied babies can drink easily from a bottle but not from a boob - bottle is easier and doesn't use the tongue as much.

What is the point of this post?
Well, no point yet... except that I'm praying that in a few days I'll be able to report back with some kind of success story, or that at least someone out there can relate and feel less alone?!

I currently spent my entire days pumping milk until I feel like my nipples are falling off, supplementing Ella's measly diet with stinky formula (literally it smells like poo. How??), and attempting to breastfeed her which can take 3 hours or more each time because.. well I don't know why. Either because the supply is low or because she can't suck properly. Hopefully the consultant can shed some light on that tomorrow...

I never would have guessed 3 months ago that breastfeeding could be so spirit-crushing. But it is really, really hard. I don't even know if I'm explaining it right because this issue has been my daily bread for 12 weeks now and I can't remember what 'normal people' know about it...

Motherhood is rough!

If you have a tongue tie success (or survival) story I'd love to hear.

P.S You have just witnessed the day my home-decor blog become about breastfeeding. Congrats

:)