I cannot remember deciding to breastfeeding my babies. I can remember in high school knowing I would breastfeed someday. I wasn’t from a breastfeeding family, I wasn’t around babies much and the babies I did babysit were formula fed. Breastfeeding wasn’t in my life, but I just knew it would be. I am in the minority I know. When talking with pregnant women I normally hear them say things like “I’m going to try to breastfeed.” or “I’m not breastfeeding”.
When pregnant with Meg, I read the books the magazines, I dreamed about nursing my baby. Then she was here, and quickly taken to the ICN for rapid breathing. I was able to hold her for about two minutes, then didn’t see her again for several hours. My epidural took forever to wear off and I couldn’t walk to see her. When I finally went to her they wer just about to give her a bottle since she was four hours old and a rather big baby (8 pounds 8 oz), but her blood sugars were holding steady. Then she nursed and nursed and nursed and all was well.
Until I couldn’t get her to latch later on. Hmmm, I thought, it is much easier to read about this stuff than to do it! We made it through the first few days. I was sore, but didn’t think about it much as I knew we would get the hang of it sometime. She grew and grew and was very big, passing her birth weight in about a week (babies lose a bit of weight the first few days, even formula fed ones, the goal for breastfed babies is to be up to birth weight by 2 weeks). I was sore. She was clicking a lot at the breast, on and off, on and off. This made her choke a bit. I took her to the doctor’s office because someone noticed that she was tongue-tied. The doctor told me that they didn’t clip tongues anymore and that it didn’t affect breastfeeding.
At my six-week checkup the doctor noticed that I had a sore on my nipple. He told me to use lanolin, no referral to get help, no suggestions. He didn’t tell me that I shouldn’t have such a sore six weeks post partum. We kept nursing.
We nursed for 15 months. One night Meg looked up at me while nursing and gave me a milky smile and never nursed again. She was done. I wasn’t ready, but Meg had moved on. She went on to have back to back ear infections that irritated me to no end since I hadn’t been the one to wean her!
Five years later here comes Elle. She was smaller than Meg, a mere 8 pounds, and severely tongue-tied. Her tongue formed a little heart when she tried to stick it out. We nursed, nursed nursed and she grew, grew, grew. I was very sore and torn up. We eventually found our happy place. I now know that she had figured out a way to latch that was unique but worked until she was about ten months old. She had so many teeth come in that she had to re-learn how to latch. At that time I was working in the Lactation Program and had learned that tongue-ties can effect breastfeeding. It can cause horrible, painful sores on mom and can lead to weight-gain issues with baby. Huh. Well my girls had no problems gaining, but mama was pretty sore!
At tens months of afe they were going to have to put Elle under general anesthesia to clip her tongue. I didn’t want to do that to her, so we worked things out and she kept on nursing and growing. I weaned her at two years, she would have kept going but I was done. It was a hard decision, one I did not take lightly, one that I second-guessed for a while, but our last nursing session was a wonderful one that I will always remember.
Today both Meg and Elle have their tongues tied still. They can sit still and get them clipped but have never had speech problems so we just left it the way it was. Elle’s has stretched a bit, but you can still see the heart! My girls are happy and healthy and I have always felt that breastfeeding them is one of my most proudest achievements. I grew two babies in my womb and out of my womb. Amazing.
I share this story not to say I suffered and it was worth it, but to tell others that sometimes you get bad advice. I was told that tongue-ties don’t affect breastfeeding and it obviously can. I had two different doctors see that I was having issues and neither one of them really cared. I wish I had realized that I could reach out to other doctor or call the lactation program, I wish I had been a bit more questioning. If I had not been so convinced that I was going to breastfeed, if I had any doubts about it, I most likely would have quit and missed out on an amazing experience.
In the past seven years a lot has changed locally. Babies are being evaluated when they are thought to be tongue-tied and tongues are being clipped in cases when they need to be. That makes me very happy. Having the correct information available on breastfeeding is so important for families.