With my first-born 5 years ago I couldn’t breastfeed like I wanted to because of lack of support and education on the subject. Unfortunately when I went back to work my supply dropped and baby didn’t want to latch anymore because he preferred the bottle. It broke my heart completely.
This time I did everything I could to get educated. I had the determination and I wasn’t working so I said to myself there was no excuse. I was going to do whatever I needed to but we were going to make it. Despite all the ignorant comments coming from relatives saying that “we just don’t produce enough”. My husband was supportive and I had friends 100% supportive of my decision and who were also breastfeeding mothers. So I covered my ears and ignored every undesirable advise.
I decided I wasn’t going to buy any bottles. Yes I can be that stubborn sometimes! But I kind of had this weird scary feeling about them because my son preferred it over the breast that I just didn’t want to have the temptation to use one and interrupt what my body was supposed to do. “My body is perfect it will do its work” became my Mantra.
Fast forward to Dec 8 2015 our baby girl Mia Valentina was born after the 3rd push. We did skin to skin and I let her latch on her own but something felt weird, it didn’t feel right. On a second attempt I helped her latch but this weird sensation quickly became a painful one. I told de lactation consultants and nurses at the hospital but everyone said she was latching good and that the pain was going to go away. The last day at the hospital I told the pediatrician, he checked her mouth and said she was perfect and that it was just matter of time. We arrived home that day and my milk came down, Yeiii! I was so happy and I thought ok maybe when she gets the milk her suction is going to get more relaxed and it wont hurt anymore, that was just me making up reasons of why it was not going as expected. Because to be honest I didn’t get prepared for any complications. But I learned from this experience!
Two weeks passed and my nipples were so sore and cracked that I started to get afraid of latching her. My husband and I came to the conclusion that she was chewing instead of sucking. We went to her two-week check up appointment and she was back to her birth weight which was good. I told the Dr. about her not latching correctly but he said that there was no indication of a problem, that her mouth was normal, the sucking was normal, that the latch looked good and she was gaining weight. But I just knew it wasn’t normal because I was in too much pain and I also noticed she wasn’t opening her mouth wide enough, the latch look good on the outside but on the inside there was something terribly wrong. No one listened. Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt and it never hurt with my first-born. I started to do some research and found other mothers experiences, but most stories I read said that after two weeks the soreness was gone. My problem wasn’t soreness anymore, I had cracked bloody nipples that were in constant pain. At 3 weeks I started to scream and cry in pain every single time she latched. I started to think that we were not going to make it. My husband was always very supportive, never even suggested a bottle because he knew how much it ment to me to be able to do it on my own without the help of any supplementation.
I called the clinic and ask to see a Lactation consultant as soon as possible because I couldn’t bear with the pain anymore. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of trying different positions she said that I was too slow and that I needed to fast and forcefully push the baby into my breast before she closed her mouth. To me this wasn’t the case but I went with it. I tried the IBCLC suggestion for two days and nothing changed. We even thought it could be thrush. I got help from two of my friends who came home to see if they could help me find the source of the problem. One of them asked if the doctors and IBCLC’s checked for tongue and lip ties. My answer was that I thought they might have because they would’ve noticed and we would’ve known by now. But this tongue and lip tie question got stuck with me. So I started doing some research about ties. And on the meantime I decided to get a Breast Pump to express milk and let my nipples heal. This was the toughest decision ever because I didn’t want her to refuse my breast after trying the bottle.
I felt like we had failed. I cried myself to sleep every single night. My days where so miserable. I got to a point that I had to leave the baby with my husband to lock myself in the bedroom and cry. It was my only way of releasing the emotions of this distressing process. I just wanted to feed my baby in the most natural way without any pain. Breastfeeding was supposed to be a beautiful experience between us, one that we could both enjoy. I did everything right, everything by the book and nothing was working.
After a week of pumping, using a nipple shield to latch her from time to time, researching and letting my nipples get better I found that all the symptoms my baby had indicated she had a posterior tongue tie and upper lip tie. I was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. She couldn’t open her mouth wide enough which is a common upper lip tie characteristic plus her lip was attached to her gumline and it couldn’t flip, she had limited tongue movement because she couldn’t lift it up and that was the reason she was chewing instead of sucking, I could listen to her swallow air while breastfeeding which made her colicky all the time. Also, posterior tongue ties are not visible because they are hidden under the mucus lining of the tongue but you can feel it by running your finger underneath from side to side. That was the reason why everyone dismissed it or they probbably didn’t even know anything about Posterior Tongue Ties.
I requested a referral with the ENT (Otolaryngologist) for the next day. I was so nervous and to tell you the truth I wanted my baby to have those tongue ties so bad! Because I wanted to end this torture. But then I caught myself thinking that I was being selfish. I wanted to end my pain but what about her? If she did have it I was going to let her go through pain by doing a frenectomy.
We got to the doctor’s office and I desperately told him that we needed help and that this was my last resource in attempting to save my breastfeeding journey. He took a look at her tongue and said that he couldn’t find anything, he even called another doctor to confirm his diagnosis. But agreed she did have a Class 3 Upper Lip Tie and that they could take care of it but it was probably not going to help with our situation. I was devastated. I cried all the way back home. Asking myself why us? Why this pain if everything seems to be fine by medical professionals. What was the problem with my baby? I even began to think she could have some kind of developmental problem. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. But my gut said that the tie was there and that we were simply misdiagnosed.
I could not quit, I couldn’t give up on my dream, why would I? Just like that without any explanation, without knowing why was it going so terribly wrong. It didn’t make any sense to me. I refused to give up. And the people around me saying how they would’ve given up after going through so much gave me more strenght to keep on going because I wanted to show them that there is always an answer.
So I shared our struggles on a Tongue Tie FB Support Group and other moms referred me to this Dentist who specializes in tongue ties and is one of the best in the area. I called his office to schedule an appointment for a consult. On this consult the doctor was going to check for ties and if he did find any he could make the procedure at the moment for $650. I scheduled for the next available date.
My most anticipated day arrived. I had many mixed up feelings. I started asking my self the what ifs again. What if she doesn’t have it, it will be the end of our journey, What if she does have it, would I let her go through that pain to ease mine? What if she does have it and after the procedure nothing changes, would I let her go through that for nothing? It was such a tough decision. Although tongue ties can cause a different range of problems and difficulties in children so I could prevent those at least.
The moment of truth comes, the doctor comes in. He was so nice and he talked in great detail while explaining what a tongue tie and lip tie was and how it interfered with breastfeeding. I was so amazed and happy to have finally found a doctor that was trained and educated on how this affects the breastfeeding experience between mother and baby. Well, this doctor’s wife went through the same thing I was going through so he decided not just to help her but to help other families in the same situation. I layed Mia on my lap head towards the doctor, feet towards me; and BTW this is the proper position to check for ties. Which is the most common error by practitioners, they don’t use the proper position. He opened her mouth and with a special tool pushed back on the frenulum and, and , and…… There it was!!!! That sneaky little evil tongue tie. I wanted to jump up and down. I was so glad someone in this world had finally listened to me, understood me and knew what he was doing. So of course I decided right away I wanted her to get the release done by laser.
The procedure was about 40 seconds long between both ties. The upper lip and the tongue. The aftercare was a difficult process as well because I had to do some stretching exercises after the release to avoid reattachment and it was uncomfortable for her and I hated to be the cause of that. I also did some therapy exercises in order to help her learn how to use the tongue the right way after 7 weeks of her being used to do it innapropriately. In fact babies begin practicing sucking reflexes in utero. So she did not know any other way.
I started noticing improvement a week later after the procedure and the stretches. Gradually and little by little everything started to get better. She stopped chewing on my nipples, I started to heal, colics went away, she started to maintain hold of the breast and the nursing time sessions shortened.
By the time Mia was 6 months old I could say that she was nursing like a champ. We accomplished it, my dedication and determination had paid off. She takes me to the moon and back every time she looks at me with those radiant eyes while I feed her. I could finally experience all those wonderful feelings other moms always talked about. I was finally happy and ejoying motherhood to the fullest like I wanted to for the second time. And I learned to always be prepared for the unexpected.
Hasta la Próxima, Till Next Time