Tongue-tie and the rocky road to breastfeeding in pubic…

So, our sweet bundle of joy is 15 weeks today! He last weighed in at a whopping 6.85kg, putting him right up there on the 75 percentile. He’s truly thriving; his leg rolls are abundant and his precious smiles and giggles frequent. But I won’t lie, it hasn’t been an easy three (and a bit) months . And we are certainly still learning as we go along.

Matthew has been exclusively breastfed from day one, but to be honest, it’s always been somewhat of a battle. It was as though he was constantly fighting for his milk, and I was the punching bag! His latch was never secure, his bottom lip didn’t flare out and he struggled, pulling on and off, taking in a lot of air and being very gassy as a consequence. As one can imagine, the first few weeks; I was in agony, my nipples were bleeding and raw, I couldn’t even bare the slightest rubbing of my shirts or bras against them, I must have gone through what felt like litres of lanisoh nipple cream… All of which, I thought, was completely normal. I heard many women saying that breastfeeding is painful at the start, but it gets easier. My goodness! But this painful? Was I just being a wimp?

We struggled for weeks (which felt like an eternity!) with Matt often seeming uncomfortable and in pain. We tried the usual remedies for colic, like infacol drops and gripe water, which helped to a certain extent, but after 10 weeks, I couldn’t fathom why this breastfeeding ‘journey’ was still such an immensely rocky one. What was I doing wrong? Should I give in and give him formula as many suggested?

I had mentioned all this to my health visitor, who didn’t seem at all concerned. Due to the fact that Matt was gaining weight well and seemed generally happy, she didn’t think that there could be a major issue. “Try giving him the bottle with expressed milk,” she commented at around 4 weeks. After witnessing my dear sister doing that very thing; having to express constantly, feed and still deal with cleaning bottles, I thought- no thanks! But worth a try, maybe after 6 weeks when there was no risk of nipple confusion I might give it a try.

After joining a breastfeeding support group on Facebook (Breastfeeding yummy mummies)  I sought the advice of some experienced mums. Many of whom suggested that Matt be assessed for a tongue tie. Now, that was something I knew very little about. So I did a bit of research… After googling a few images of tongue tie and then examining my boy, I quickly realised that this could be the issue. Immediately, I contacted a lactation and tongue-tie specialist from the list on the ATP (Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners) website, where all of the members would have provided evidence of appropriate training, professional registration and insurance. I thought going private would be a lot better than having to wait for the NHS and all their rigmarole.

At 10 weeks old, Carmelle Gentle (a registered midwife and infant feeding specialist) came to our home to assess Matthew’s potential tongue tie. She was fantastic, I contacted her via email, she responded promptly and agreed to come through the very next day. On first inspection, she could immediately observe that his tongue’s mobility was limited. She conducted a few other tests and confirmed that Matt’s little tongue was 75% tied. She performed the division (with a little snip of the sterilised scissors.) My heart breaking into a million pieces as I held my boy’s sweet smiling face steady in my hands.

He gave out a big wail and started crying. I immediately put him to my breast and with a little encouragement, he started drinking. I could feel the difference already. His latch was so much more secure and the feed didn’t hurt. Hooray!

The past five weeks post Matt’s division have been so much more pleasant. He doesn’t take in as much air, his latch is secure and he even feeds more quickly (the milk is easier for him to get). He still needs a good burp after most feeds, but it comes quickly and he settles nicely afterwards. His demeanour has certainly improved, he smiles, coos and even giggles at me during feeds. My heart! The bond I feel with my dear son is strong and ever growing. I only wish I had checked him for tongue tie sooner. I do feel that there is not enough awareness about tongue tie and that babies should be checked at birth. I can only imagine how many mums are discouraged from breastfeeding due to lack of support in this area.

We are still on a journey and as the days go by, I do feel that so many elements that we struggled with at the start, have become a million times easier now. I must admit, I still get somewhat nervous when having to feed Matt in public and I think he must sense my tension as it’s often more difficult to get him to nurse.This is something we are working on. I got some good advice from my sister just the other day. We were out having breakfast with our hubbies and babies when Matt needed a feed. He started becoming a bit agitated as I faffed around looking for my nursing cover (as not to offend anyone.) In the meanwhile, my dear husband had picked Matt up and started walking around to avoid a scene, both of us feeling slightly stressed… We managed to calm our boy and he fed well eventually. Feeling hot and bothered, I apologised for ruining the peace. Often in this situation, if Matt was fussing at the breast, I would go to the toilets and feed him there. He would latch on without a problem and feed wonderfully. This proves how much my feelings affect my son’s feeding!

Later, I shared with my sister Maxine, how it made me feel- when we were out in public- and Matt needed to be fed. How I dreaded causing a commotion and how I wished he would just peacefully latch on and drink away…Maxine gently and supportively said that she noticed how both Donal and I immediately started looking around the restaurant when Matt started fussing; worrying what others would think of us. I admitted that I do worry that we’d be upsetting people around us. She replied, (quite bluntly then) something along the lines of: “Who gives a shit?”   “You are doing an amazing job, and your priority is your baby! Don’t worry about what other people might think, they probably don’t even notice what’s going on. Feed your baby and  do not panic or stress, Matt can feel your emotions and reacts accordingly. You do what you have to do and never apologise for it!”

At that moment, I realised that she was so right. Who cares what others think? Why worry? I know that I shouldn’t and that I have the right to feed my sweet boy wherever and whenever he needs to be fed. I am going to try and work on this wholeheartedly, for the sake of our sweet boy.

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