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15.6.11

Breastfeeding and Tongue Tie.

From the first day I found out I was pregnant in 2008 I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I’d always been pro-breastfeeding and I think this stemmed from the fact that my mum breastfed my brother and me [twins] until we were 7 months old, when sadly her milk dried up due to a stomach bug.

My mum had made me feel very positive about breastfeeding, but at the same time didn’t make formula feeding a negative issue, we just never talked about formula as we never needed to. At the same time as wanting so desperately to breastfeed I was aware that for some women it just doesn’t happen. Either they don’t take to it, have low milk supply issues or the baby simply won’t latch on, and I wanted to keep in my mind that just because I want to breastfeed, it doesn’t mean I’ll be able to. We had bottles and a breast pump in the cupboard ready for the baby’s arrival. I’d hoped that at some point I’d even be able to express and give a bottle, like when returning to work.

I can’t remember how long it had been after Charles was born that he was put on my chest and he latched on for the first time. He was born in a birthing pool and had to be taken out quite quickly to have a few pumps of Oxygen and I was bleeding heavily and had to be put on a drip and stitched up. I didn’t want to feed him whilst still being prodded and poked so had a cuddle then gave him to my husband.

When he first latched on though I remember thinking that the midwives didn’t really help or advice with latching him on, from what I’d read in magazines and seen on programmes there was a certain way to hold the baby and to cradle his head, tickle his top lip with your nipple etc. I just felt like they had launched his head quickly onto my breast! Maybe this was how it was done!

I remember instantly feeling a sense of pride that our baby was feeding from me, his first liquids and food were from my body especially made for him. Except a couple of hours on, whilst breastfeeding him again, I wasn’t so keen on the toe-curling pain. Something didn’t feel right. So I called a midwife, explained that it felt really painful. She checked his latch, said that it was fine and he must just have a strong suck. She could tell he was getting milk so was happy.

We went home 12 hours after he was delivered. We ended up co-sleeping that night and the next day was spent cuddling and feeding almost non-stop. Still it was painful but I remembered what the midwife had said about him having a strong suck and I assumed that my body would get used to the feeling, after all I had never breast-fed a baby before! The pain was so bad that at times I have to grip my husbands hand as Charles latched and flinched as the pain shot right down my body and really did make my toes curl. I hoped it would get better. Except the next day it seemed to be worse. He was definitely getting milk, we knew that for certain. In this area we are lucky enough to have a Breastfeeding Team, I had a wrist band with their phone number on and a leaflet, I planned on phoning them at lunchtime but fell asleep and thought nothing of it when I woke up. Surely they’d think I was over-reacting and tell me that my body would get used to it. But that evening I looked down at Charles when he was feeding and noticed blood around his mouth, I unlatched him and noticed my nipple was bleeding.

I phoned the breastfeeding team crying and begged for someone to come out. At

As the next morning came the second lady, Dawn, came round and as soon as I latched Charles on she said instantly, “its tongue tie”. She could hear a clicking which was related to the tongue tie. She phoned a hospital in the city, not the one closer to us which I gave birth in, to book in for us to get the tie cut. As this was a Wednesday she was hoping we’d be able to get in the following day as the consultant was in clinic on a Thursday and Monday, except he was away at a conference.

Dawn gave me amazing support and got us booked in the following Monday. I was dreading it. She talked through the simple procedure but I hated the fact that no pain relief was used. She explained the reasons why this consultant didn’t use pain relief etc which made a small amount of difference but not much. I didn’t want some stranger to hurt my tiny brand new baby, but I knew that for us to enjoy feeding, it had to be done. So the week carried on with painful latches, no more bleeding thankfully. I tried nipple shields and shells but they didn’t help at all but the fact that it was going to be better soon spurred me on. And despite the pain I loved the bond between us, and the fact that my milk was now well and truly in and flowing made a difference because I knew my supply was fine, our only obstacle was getting the tie cut.

Before seeing the breastfeeding team I had asked two separate community midwives to check the latch, positioning and so on because of the pain. One midwife checked and said again that it was a strong latch and the other didn’t check but said “what did the other midwife say?” and agreed that it was probably just a strong latch.

When I saw the second midwife again the day after Dawn had diagnosed the tongue tie I said to her what had happened. She said that she hadn’t heard a clicking noise when Charles had latched on to which I responded that the reason she hadn’t heard the clicking was because she hadn’t bothered to check the latch. She fell silent.

Monday afternoon we headed off to the hospital, the procedure upsets me and I would hate to put off any other mums so I won’t go into detail, although it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. It was a simple snip and it was done. Feeding was amazing after that, Charles was so confident and it didn’t hurt! Result. Expect I was still wary of latching him on and had to build up my confidence and not back off as his mouth was reaching for my nipple. In that first week he didn’t lose any weight, which surprised me, the breastfeeding counsellor and the midwife, it meant that despite the tongue tie, which was quite severe, he was still able to get exactly what he needed. I felt amazing.

We continued to breastfeed for what I though would be 6 months, when we had planned for me to return to work. I was over the moon when my husband said that he thought I should hand my notice in at work at stay with our baby as long as I could because he could see that Charles needed me, well, he needed my breasts. Charles wouldn’t take to a bottle so expressing wouldn’t have worked and we were in a panic. My husband could see how well breastfeeding was working out for all of us and didn’t want it to stop when it didn’t have to.

We ended up breastfeeding until just after Charles was 18 months old. I never expected to feed for so long. I enjoyed every single second. I loved the bond, the fact that before solid food was introduced to his diet that it was me who kept him alive and healthy.
In that 18 months Charles was put on antibiotics once to combat oral thrush. He never suffered chest infections or ear infections, unlike his other baby friends who were formula fed. As soon as breastfeeding finished for us he suffered from his first chest infection and was put on antibiotics. This to me was proof that for those 18 months my milk was also his medicine and fought these horrible infections.

The reason for us stopping breastfeeding was due to low supply issues because of me falling pregnant with our second child two months previous. I am currently enjoying 7 months of having my breasts to myself until I have another baby boy latching on. One of the first things I’ll be checking when he is born is whether or not he has tongue tie, and getting it snipped as soon as possible, so I can hopefully enjoy another 18 months of breastfeeding.