To help parents understand a bit more about how tongue and lip ties can affect breastfeeding, over the next few weeks we will be featuring stories from moms whose babies experienced these challenges. We would like to extend a HUGE thank you to the brave mamas who submitted their stories for our blog! We know you went through a ton of challenges and we are so appreciative that you were willing to share your stories! If you have a story you would like to share on our blog, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about tongue and lip ties and how they can affect breastfeeding, please see our article:Does Your Baby Have a Tongue or Lip Tie?
Written by Cinda Brown
Lily and I had a rough start with our breastfeeding relationship from the very beginning. She latched soon after she was born and in that instant I felt sharp pain and noticed there was blood. She had caused damage with her first latch. We stayed at the hospital for about 24 hours, and in that time she had pretty severely damaged both of my nipples. I consulted with friends and professionals who had breastfed before, but didn’t get the kind of guidance I probably should have. No one’s fault, but no one had seen or experienced what I was going through so they gave me what they thought was very well meaning advice. Unfortunately I really needed to see an IBCLC, but I didn’t know that such a person existed.
After 2 rounds of mastitis, one being 7 days postpartum with 104 degree temperature, completely exhausted with a baby who cried all night long, I finally called the breastfeeding warmline at Balboa Hospital. Lily was about 4 weeks old. I don’t know why I hadn’t called it before, but I suspect it was because I thought I had received help already. I had been told by a friend that I was getting mastitis because Lily wasn’t emptying all the milk from my breast and that I needed to pump. So I did, starting at about 5 days postpartum. I ended up with such an oversupply from this, but didn’t know that I shouldn’t have been doing that. I think that this is ultimately what caused my second bout of mastitis. All the while I was scabbed and cried every time Lily latched. My nipple looked like the pointed end of lipstick when she finished nursing. This was unsustainable and I had no idea how women were able to breastfeed their children.
So, back to the call to Balboa. The nurse had me come in right away. She said that she suspected that Lily had a tongue tie and tried to also help me with technique. The technique didn’t help a lot, but I had developed a ton of bad habits trying to deal with the pain....like cursing, hunching over, stiffening my body in pain while she nursed, and the list goes on. She tried to help me relax, but it was to no avail. I was in so much pain. She talked to me about seeing the doctor for a possible clipping and I was immediately against it when it was described to me. We were talking about cutting in Lily’s baby mouth! Really?!?! I just had to be tougher and with that thanked the nurse for her help, and I truly meant it. I just had to go home and practice more. My husband helped me with what we had learned and it was exhausting for both of us. Neither of us could get Lily’s latch correct no matter what we tried. This led to lots of tears and frustration between both of us as we struggled to get it right. I was adamant that I was going to breastfeed, and at some points I felt like it was going to kill me to achieve that goal.
Two days later I was back with the nurse at Balboa, in tears. I was ready to see the doctor to talk about this procedure. I knew that the breastfeeding relationship between Lily and me wasn’t going to last much longer. Lily was about 5 weeks old at this point, so I had been enduring for 5 long, excruciating weeks. We met with Dr. Jim Murphy and he explained the procedure. I was onboard, knowing that at this point I was willing to try anything. The procedure wasn’t entirely pleasant, but I suspect it was because Lily was being held still, which she didn’t like and that she wasn’t being held close to me, which she did like. The clipping was really quick and Dr. Murphy immediately gave her back to me to have her latch. It felt very different! No big pinching feeling. Relief!
We were told to do stretching exercises after each nursing session. I did them religiously. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns as Lily had developed her own technique to get milk, which involved biting or gumming my nipples. It worked for her, but not for me. We had to learn together how to make this work well for both of us. Because of my abundant oversupply, she was not the typical underweight baby at her checkups. In fact she was right around 100% for both height and weight at each one. No one had suspected that we were having a problem.
A few weeks later the lipstick nipples, pain, pinching, and scabbing were back. We went back to see Dr. Murphy and he said that her tongue had healed in a way that indicated that he had to re-release her tongue. Heart breaking. We had to do the clipping again. We did, it was quick, and Lily latched right on. Nursing became easier after this, although we did have to go through a relearning process again.
By the time I had to go back to work (when Lily was about 11 weeks old) we were doing great. She was sleeping better at night and I was able to think about trying to go running. Prior to this the thought of running was horrifying because my breasts and nipples hurt so badly. I continued to pump ALL THE TIME to try to relieve the pressure, knowing now that I was just keeping the output at maximum level. I was so relieved to have identified the problem that had caused us so much pain and suffering, so I started trying to learn as much about it as I could.
I’m a huge breastfeeding advocate and am an active duty Navy mama. I understand the challenges and difficulties presented to mothers with young children, and trying to balance this with a demanding job. I have sought education and am now working toward completing the Certified Lactation Educator certification and hope to help many more mothers have a successful breastfeeding relationship with their children. My own command has responded with support for the new mothers by allowing me to establish breastfeeding rooms and a support group. Lily is now almost 2 and a half, and nurses now more than ever. I know that if it weren’t for that wonderful nurse and Dr. Murphy that we wouldn’t be here today, and I am forever grateful for their assistance and that we were able to get the tongue tie clipping procedure.