“When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I read everything I could find on pregnancy and childbirth. I knew I would breastfeed, my mother had breastfed all but one of my five siblings and I, and I was very familiar with the multiple benefits that came with breastfeeding. While I did take classes on childbirth, I decided that I did not need to learn about breastfeeding while I was pregnant. I thought I would simply put the baby to my breast and she would do all the work. While it might work that way for some it didn’t for me.
My daughter’s birth went perfectly. It was the natural unmedicated birth I had planned and Evie latched on almost immediately. Her latch was uncomfortable and mildly painful, but I had heard that breastfeeding was painful at first, so I did my best to ignore it. She also frequently lost suction and had trouble staying latched.
Then by the end of her first day, despite her frequent feedings, she had failed to have any wet diapers. The nurses set me up with a pump but I was unable to get more than a few drops on the first try, so they told me that I would have to supplement with formula.
With this began the rigorous schedule of trying to nurse, then pumping, then feeding my milk in a bottle, and then supplementing with formula every two to three hours around the clock. I cried a lot. I cried over the loss of the perfect and easy nursing relationship I envisioned with my child. I cried over the sense of betrayal of my body. The nurses told me that I had flat nipples and they were too large for my daughter’s small mouth. Their words and the sad looks on their faces as I continued to get very little milk out with the pump made me feel as if my body had failed me.
It took three days before they would release us because of her rough start and by the time we got home, she had started to refuse to latch on to the breast. Thankfully her breast refusal didn’t last for more than a few days and when my milk came in, I thought my troubles were over. I was wrong again.
Over the course of three and a half months, I battled with low supply, cracked and painful nipple, clogged ducts, mastitis, and postpartum depression. During that time, I discovered that I could use an SNS to give my milk through a feeding tube while she nursed at my breast. It wasn’t ideal but it worked and cut down on the time it took to feed her bottles. I still had to alternate between the SNS and bottles because the damage to my nipples had become quite severe due to my baby’s bad latch and poor pumping instructions from the hospital. I remember referring to the damage as looking like blown tires and even the lactation consultant I saw winced visibly when she saw how bad they were.
I vigilantly searched for answers to my breastfeeding problems, saw a lactation consultant several times, joined a nearby breastfeeding support group La Leche League (LLL) of Celina, and saw the WIC Peer Helper regularly. I asked for help from my family doctor, my OB, and my daughter’s pediatrician only to be told “there is nothing I can do” and “some women just can’t breastfeed”. I refused to accept this and after being encouraged by my LLL group to have my daughter evaluated for tongue tie, I took her to a local dentist around six weeks old and he confirmed a tongue tie and snipped it. He then told me that he didn’t think that the revision would help because she had a “tight tongue”. He was right that it didn’t help, but he was wrong about why. She didn’t have a “tight tongue”, she had a posterior tongue tie.
In my search for answers after the first procedure, I happened upon a website that talked about posterior tongue tie and its symptoms in a breastfed infant. My daughter had almost all of them. It took us several weeks to get into a dentist who specialized in releasing posterior tongue tie.
My daughter, Evie was a little over 3 months when her tongue tie was finally fully released. I noticed an immediate decrease in the pain from nursing after the procedure and after a little over a week I no longer needed to pump and supplement her because she was finally able to transfer all the milk she needed on her own.
I was so relieved and I was also so angry. I had suffered and struggled for over three months so that I could provide my child with the best nutrition only to find out that it was all due to a simple anatomical malformation that should have been looked for and found by one of our doctors. But none of them even looked. I was angry that the first dentist we saw was not educated enough to diagnose a posterior tongue tie. I was angry because the first three months of her life were such a blur and I missed out on enjoying them because most of our healthcare workers know close to nothing about breastfeeding and choose not to educate themselves on it. I have since turned this anger into a passion for assisting other parents who are struggling to breastfeed.
There were so many times that I wanted to give up, especially those late nights when I would jolt awake after falling asleep while pumping (yes if you are exhausted enough this can happen). However, I stuck with it and I am so glad I did. Despite all these difficulties, I do not regret those months I struggled, breastfeeding was worth fighting for. I went on to breastfeed my daughter until she was two and a half and I am currently still breastfeeding my son who is two. I am happy to say that I have had no difficulties with breastfeeding my son. Breastfeeding began as one of the most challenging things I had encountered in my life and blossomed into one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”
Hope, Leader from Darke County La Leche League