As I was coming to the end of my pregnancy this spring, I started to prepare for the whole 'looking after baby' thing. As this was my second child, I knew the most important thing I'd be doing in the first couple months would be breastfeeding. I got my breastfeeding bras, my pump and a few breastfeeding tops. I was set.
The baby came along and immediately feeding wasn't going as well as it had with my first son.
I was in pain and he was fussy and unsettled. I thought it was my fault. I made sure I was holding him correctly and latching on properly. He wouldn't really open his mouth very widely, so it was always hard to make sure enough of my areola in his mouth. Also, it felt like he was chewing on me rather than sucking. I wondered if he had been born teething.
Then he started to get very windy and fussy. "Ahhhhhhh!" I thought, "I'm feeding him incorrectly. That's the problem!" So instead of swapping sides each feed, I stayed with one side for two hours. That *kind of* helped, but not totally.
I told the Health Visitor about his fussiness and she recommended Ipacol. It *kind of* helped, but not totally. He was still very fussy and seemed to not be satisfied after his feeds. And it still felt like he was chewing my nipples when he fed.At my 6 week check, I told my GP that he was making a lot of clicking sounds when he ate. She said maybe I had 'too much milk'. Maybe. Though I was feeling like my supply might be low as he was still not satisfied with his feeds.
Then my nipples started getting painful again. I got a mild case of mastitis. Finally. I called in a Lactation Consultant.
She arrived the next day and within about 30 seconds of walking in had diagnosed my son with a posterior tongue tie. A Photo gallery of tongue ties and noticed that they all looked different. My son's looked a bit 'cup-shaped' when he cried so perhaps he hadn't been misdiagnosed after all. Perhaps.
The day of the clinic arrived and I was still unsure. I didn't want to put him through pain unnecessarily, but no one could tell me that the procedure would definitely fix the feeding problems. We'd have to just go ahead and hope for the best.
Mr. Patel sees around 20 babies during the clinic, all with breastfeeding problems caused by tongue ties. When I was there the youngest were a few days old, the oldest were around 12 weeks old. As the frenulum in tiny babies is very, very thin, he doesn't use anaesthetic which means that he can do them in the clinic. The frenulum gets thicker as the babies age so that after 6 months of age they need to be put under general anaesthetic. That would involve getting on a waiting list and into surgery.
He asks that the babies aren't fed after 1pm so that by the time he starts seeing them at 3pm they are hungry. He wants to make sure that the babies are desperate for a feed so that they immediately get over the pain of the snip. He sees the youngest/hungriest babies first. Usually the older babies are left until last, though when I was there a few of the very tiny babies were sleeping so went at the end.
He called me into the procedure room so that he could have a look under my son's tongue. Again, I was thinking that he'd tell me my son had been misdiagnosed. To me, my son's tongue looked normal. Sure, he couldn't stick it out that far, but it wasn't completely tied down to the floor of his mouth.
Mr. Patel opened my son's mouth and said, 'This kind of tongue tie looks fairly normal, but when I do this you can see it' and he pushed his finger under my son's tongue and there was a rather large web of skin. When I saw that I was 100% positive he needed it snipped.
I left the room and went next door where all of the mothers were feeding their babies post-snip. I sat down, put a pillow on my lap, unhooked my bra and looked up and my son was being carried in. He was crying, but not screaming. He had a gauze in his mouth as there was a bit of blood. I took it out of his mouth and got him into position to feed. It had been about 30 seconds between his snip and being reunited with me to feed. Not a long time.
Immediately, I noticed he was able to open his mouth wider than he ever had before. And when he started feeding he wasn't chewing on me, he was sucking! It didn't feel like my nipples were being sandpapered, it was delicate and gentle! He was feeding properly!
Since then all feeding problems have entirely disappeared. I feel like I'm producing enough milk and he's satisfied after feeds. I'm very, very happy that I got it done even if it meant him having a bit of pain. In the long run it means that I will be able to continue breastfeeding without pain.
If you're having problems feeding you can find a local UK lactation consultant here.