I had heard of tongue-tie. But wasn’t quite sure what it was. I never heard of it associated with breastfeeding. But perhaps that’s because our culture has forgotten there is a connection.
My nursing difficulties started because our little one had jaundice and wasn’t waking to nurse. I didn’t know better. I was relieved because my first few latch-ons had been awkward and I was embarrassed breastfeeding hadn’t been this “ultimate, natural, bonding experience” I thought it would be. So I would let him sleep. I didn’t realize this would create an oversupply problem as my milk came in. Soon, I was sitting around the hospital with heat packs, cold packs, randomly pumping – anything to take the edge off the pain.
Since the nurses would only bring him to me every 3 hours while he was under the “billy” lights, I thought this timing was also normal. So when I got home, I tried feeding him every 3 hours. Of course he cried incessantly! He was hungry. But I was in so much pain I couldn’t BEAR to latch him on. Plus, he wouldn’t STAY on. He kept nipping, biting, and falling off. Poor kid just couldn’t get a good latch. We supplemented with pumped milk by finger-feeding him (very time consuming) because we’d heard not to use bottles. But I was also unaware of how to correctly pump. So I was over pumping and building too great of a supply. More pain!
The intense pain continued, despite all my home remedies!At his 4 week checkup, we were STILL occasionally finger feeding him and about once a day using a bottle, because he still would not latch on correctly. Then the pediatrician (well, we see a nurse practitioner) said to me, “He looks a little tongue tied.” Now, the only time I’d heard of tongue tie was in relation to speech impediments. Fortunately, our NP knew there was a connection between tongue tie and breastfeeding.
Our baby’s tongue tie wasn’t severe, but it was enough so his little tongue could not stick out past his bottom gum. The frenulum (that little piece of skin under the tongue) was too short/tight to allow him to stick his tongue out. This prevented him from latching correctly. Which caused pain. And milk supply issues.
Finally, my long awaited (hey, 2 weeks IS a long wait when you’re in pain) appointment with Trisha Ludwig, breastfeeding medicine specialist, came. In our two hour session, she patiently heard my saga of pain. She observed me nurse and helped me latch him on correctly. She weighed him before and after nursing each side, using a highly sensitive scale, to show me he was getting enough milk (relief!). She also mentioned he was tongue-tied. Third times the charm!
We set up an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist). Dr. B—, the ENT, told us he’s seen more cases of babies with tongue tie, and following the procedure, mothers say they experience relief in breastfeeding pain. The procedure took all of two seconds. My husband held the baby, and the doctor quickly snipped the frenulum free of the tongue. He cried for about five seconds (the baby, I cried longer). Then I nursed him. I noticed immediately how smoothly he latched on – it wasn’t perfect yet, but it was a much easier latch – he wasn’t always popping off!
Over the next two weeks, and after a few more consultations with Trisha, the pain subsided (and was totally gone by week 12). He began to latch more effectively. We are now six months into breastfeeding, and it’s so easy now! I still pinch myself sometimes!
I’m so glad I had medical professionals who knew about tongue tie and breastfeeding, because I didn’t. Any nobody in the hospital mentioned it. Tongue tie interfering with breastfeeding is an increasingly common problem – whether that’s because the medical community is growing more aware there is a connection, or because tongue tie is becoming more frequent, no one knows. But it’s worth looking into and asking your pediatrician about if you continue to experience pain beyond a few weeks!