You might wonder why I’m writing about our breastfeeding problems in such detail — is it too private? Is it weird to share? I have two reasons, though:
- I’ve been encouraged and boosted by reading other mothers’ experiences, good and bad, particularly the ones with a happy ending. It may sound hokey but I sort of imagine it as a worldwide tribe of ladies who worked to feed their babies, and if they can do it, I can do it. So in turn, I’d like to share our story, because maybe it will help someone else who is having problems, even if we can’t solve them — maybe it’ll help to know that someone out there went through the same thing and tried.
- Writing about it has generated some ideas, some tips, and some support, things I wouldn’t get it if I just suffered through it alone. Of course we’re working with an excellent LC and taking a lot of cues from her, but I think it takes a village. I’m particularly appreciative of the ‘you can do it’ type of support — a friend put it aptly; essentially, “As long as you are dedicated to breastfeeding, people need to support you in that. If you decide to formula feed, people need to support you in that.”
And a bonus reason — I think breastfeeding is normal and natural and not taboo, so why wouldn’t I write about it? That being said, we are talking about boobs and hormones and all kinds of stuff like that so if that isn’t what you want to read, click away (but come back! I have non-baby stuff looming on the horizon!).
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s where we’re at. We struggled a lot from our last LC appointment to the one we had on Monday. The shield was difficult to use — it wouldn’t seal and chafed and rubbed and moved when she nursed. And getting her into football position was horrible more often than not, because it was awkward and difficult and she wouldn’t latch well anyway. Every morning we woke up and fought with her for at least an hour, taking her on and off, stacking and restacking pillows, applying and reapplying the shield, and she would scream and cry and I would cry and Matt would be late for work and it was just awful. So, on Friday, Matt called a public health nurse to find out if she could do a house call, figuring maybe I could replicate any luck we had in the LC’s office with someone there to help, but in our own house.
She came over and I felt relieved just to have someone else there. The baby latched on well and she said it looked good — and it didn’t really hurt, because I had been healing thanks to the shield. So she suggested we ditch the stuff that was challenging us, a.k.a. the shield and the football position, and work on latching her well in a comfortable position.
So I did that. But by the end of the day I was feeling some pain, again. Even with a latch that looked good on the outside it still hurt. She was applying a lot of suction and clamping, and something about her tongue felt wrong. We tried going back to the shield again figuring the hassle was better than the pain, but Sunday morning saw me literally chucking it after attempting to nurse her for four hours. We decided to get a hand pump, which to me felt like the beginning of the end. I nursed her for what felt like the last time and gritted through the pain so I could look at her, hold her close, and get the tiniest bit of closure in case everything fell apart so bad that I wouldn’t be able to nurse her again.
Matt went out and got a pump and it took me to mid-afternoon to actually get a chance to use it, so in the meantime I decided to fully quit using the shield knowing we’d see the LC the next day. It hurt, at the same level it had before, but I felt energized, thinking the pump would give me a break. The first time I tried it I got 3.5 oz on one side (which totally set me up for unrealistic expectations, BTW) which we offered to her in a bottle the next time she was hungry. She was really, really upset that day and had a hard time with the bottle, drinking an ounce or so before she fell asleep. When she woke up we offered her the rest (having refrigerated it) but it wasn’t enough to satisfy her so I had to nurse her anyway. That’s when I decided the pump was stupid because there’s no way I could get ahead of her feeding needs with it, so we packed it up.
That day I launched into my usual ‘Google every symptom we have’ routine and stumbled upon a symptom list for posterior tongue ties. The LC had previously ruled out a tie at our second visit but I think she was just looking for an obvious anterior tie. Still, as I read the list I realized we fit into nearly every symptom except weight loss. Here’s what I jotted down:
- incredibly difficult to latch w/ or w/o shield
- even if we get a good latch, has lower jaw clamped tight
- very strong suck – even if all areola in, comes out red and chapped
- nipples feel sandpapered; friction
- dribbles milk out especially toward end of feeding*
- wants to eat every hour – two hours, often acts hungry right after eating, eats for short period of time
- makes clicking noises*
- loses suction*
- frequent spitting up, even well after eating (eats, naps, wakes up & spits) and has projectile vomited ~5 times
- sour milk breath
- nipples flattened/compressed
- feels like nipple being flicked even with deep latch, even with a shield
- cries after being taken away from breast even if she removes herself
- high palate
- lip tie?
- family connection
- slides off nipple
- cannot hold pacifier
The ones with the asterisk have been happening less often with suck training, but are still happening. The family connection? I found out several people on Matt’s side have tongue/lip ties and there is apparently a genetic component. As for the lip tie, once I read posterior ties and lip ties often go hand in hand, I checked her upper lip and realized it looked kind of tight. I told Matt my discovery and said, “I swear she has a posterior tongue tie.”
I was really nervous about our next appointment because a tie had already been ruled out and I always feel anxious when it comes to bringing up things to medical professionals (I don’t know why — part of my weird medical anxiety I guess). But the LC was willing to assess her after Matt and I brought it up. The baby ended up scoring in a borderline way — the appearance was almost normal and the function was iffy, but put together it landed us with a recommendation to consider frenectomy if otherwise managing it failed. We went home with a hospital grade pump, a plan to try and pump enough to get me a weekend off of directly nursing, and instructions on how to keep suck training her. The plan was to keep suck training for a week and head back in to talk to the doctor about a clip the following Monday if nothing else changed.
The rest of Monday was okay because I felt bolstered, despite her cluster feeding like crazy Monday night — but Tuesday was awful. By midday, it really, really hurt. It felt like an 8/10 on the pain scale when she nursed and a 5/10 in between. I tried pumping and got all of an ounce and a half, total, with no luck on one side. She cried. I cried. Our whole house felt tense and horrible. I agreed to suffer through ’till Monday if I could but it was such a disheartening, painful day.
And then today, M’s fussiness went away and she went back to her cheerful self after two days of misery (because she finally pooped — parenthood is glamorous). But the ridiculous pain of nursing was present as soon as I woke up. I ended up totally freaking out over my supply when I weighed her on our scale and her weight seemed lower, not to mention the fact that I could only pump a quarter of an ounce on the side I had yet to feed her on. I called Matt in a panic and he told me to call the health unit, and the nurses there told us to come in ASAP to sort things out.
I am so, so glad we did that.
Immediately, one of the nurses said she thought I had thrush, thus explaining the sudden uptick in pain and the fact that I was starting to feel awful stabbing full-breast pain (SO SO SO PAINFUL ugh). But that was secondary to the major problem, that being her awful latching. Once again she latched in a way that looked good but felt awful, thrush or no thrush. Both nurses agreed she had a bit of a tie — not a major one, not one at the front of her tongue, but a tie nonetheless. They called and set us up with an appointment at the clinic for a clip, tomorrow afternoon, and recommended we get thrush meds at the same time, as well as ask for reflux meds because she has some GERD symptoms. They weighed her on the same scale from Friday and she’s up, so that’s a relief.
So, we’re going for the clip. I’m anxious about it — I don’t want to hurt her for no reason — but my gut is telling me it’s worth it. I know it won’t be an instant fix. The nurses also agreed her suck is entirely disorganized and she still needs help and training, even with a clip. I know it could not do anything at all and we’ll still be faced with problems. But it’s something we need to try, scary as it may be.
If you’re the good vibes/prayer/whatever type, send a little extra warmth our way tomorrow afternoon? I would love to close the doors on this chapter of our lives.