What I didn’t know about tongue tie.
First off, nobody checks, nobody tells you and if they do, it’s formula in hand.
I never wanted to breastfeed. It just didn’t appeal to me. Actually, it grossed me out completely. As my pregnancy wore on, I slowly came round to the idea and eventually my husband and I decided that we would try – everything if need be.
I got lucky. I told the nurses to please let me try by myself and my little girl latched perfectly on her first try and consistently after. I was ecstatic. That is, until a night nurse decided my boundaries were nonsense on the second night and latched my baby for me. Aggressively and without so much as a by your leave. This effectively ended my lucky streak, as baby simply did not latch correctly after. Every feed became a nightmare.
On Sunday night, an IBCLC was doing rounds, but by the time she could see me, bubs was in the nursery. Adding to the sense of misery and pain, was being constantly bombarded with “Has your milk still not come in?” I felt like such a failure in that department, but the lactation consultant set my mind at ease.
On Monday we went home with a considerably lighter, but healthy baby. My nipples were so damaged, though, that her first spit-up looked like she had ruptured an ulcer – she had ingested that much of my blood. I had to take my one breast offline. By Tuesday, if you so much as hinted at feeding or breasts, I panicked, I was in that much pain. I made an appointment with the IBCLC – I desperately needed help. On Wednesday morning we bundled ourselves into the car, hoping for a miracle.
As we were weighing the baby, she started screaming murder. The consultant was happy and said it helped her check something. Two seconds later, we had our answer. Our daughter was born with a mild tongue tie. Just enough to make feeding difficult – she had also barely gained weight since being released from hospital. We were fortunate, our IBCLC has an interest in tongue tie and collaborates with an amazing ENT. The small procedure to release the tie was done on Friday.
Sadly, our daughter proceeded to go on a hunger strike and by Friday night, I was begging my husband to go buy formula through sobs of fatigue and desperation. He held out on me and with a LOT of skin to skin and TLC and patience, our little one finally fed around midnight.
It took a while for her to relearn latching and figure out her tongue, which meant it took a while for my supply to figure itself out. And forever to bring my damaged breast back online. Whenever I fed her, my husband had to stand close by, so I had something to punch or kick during the pain of the initial latch. We’ve figured it all out now, but I still remember the pain and panic.
After chatting about my experience to a doctor from Cape Town, who happens to be married to a friend of my hubby’s, she immediately asked for our ENT’s details. Apparently SA just doesn’t deal with tongue tie. Mothers just aren’t told that there is a simple physical reason they are struggling and are left to feel like failures, because no amount of commitment can help their child feed effectively.
Tongue tie can be resolved quickly and easily and is simple to check for, but for some reason it is seldom done. If you struggle, see an IBCLC – a real one, not the nurse. It is worth so much more than the small consultation fee.
Update: I still don’t enjoy breastfeeding. Whenever someone tells me how amazing and bonding and beautiful it is, I want to punch them in the face. I do it, because I believe that it is the best thing for our child and our family and I can. As such, I am not weaning soon, but don’t mistake my resolve for enjoyment.