Challenging and beyond unprepared…a complete understatement to describe parenting and breastfeeding! I became a mother overnight, without any training, certification or license. I was completely responsible for the well-being of this baby, 24 hours a day, feeding it and keeping it alive. It took me 10 years to become a chiropractor, with countless hours of study and practice, and a BOARD EXAM. I have zero training or practice at being a mom.
The lessons from my parenting journey is important to share, because, like studying to be a chiropractor, much of “it” has been researched in order to justify “it”. Others lessons are educated guesses from speaking with knowledgeable professionals, and some other lessons are complex realizations! I am naturally a private person, but I will reluctantly share in cyberspace, in case another mom, or dad or anyone needs information at 3am. Dr. Google will produced all sorts of “truths” at that time. At least, I am a licensed health care professional who is now a professional mom!
LESSONS IN BREASTFEEDING
PART 1: HOW TO BREASTFEED A TONGUE TIED BABY
This first blog is about how to breastfeed after a tongue tie baby damages the mom’s nipples, sending her to torturous feeds every time the baby latches on to those bleeding, cracked nipples, while a helpless dad watched…and our journey to success. In this case, I did not enjoy the journey, just the destination!
This is our journey:
I had the healthiest pregnancy and delivery. My planned c-section went so smoothly, except I did not known that BOTH vacuum and forceps were used during the delivery. I would later find out that studies show forceps and vacuum, or any labour and deliver trauma, prevents many babies from breastfeeding.
I was fit and healthy prior to delivery, and on a morphine high I felt no pain and was send home early from the hospital.
But… I was sent home with a cracked and bruised nipple. The hospital lactation consultant (LC) made me feel like breastfeeding is meant to be PAINFUL and I was being a wimpy, lousy mom for complaining. So within a day my baby’s lips began to blister as she tried to suck milk but could not! In an effort to extract milk, she instead chewed off my nipples, which were bleeding, cracked and practically destroyed. I could not breastfeed without excruciating pain, and at the same time, became painfully engorged. My baby lost 10% of her weight and formula tube feeding was recommended along with pumping. Feeding this baby became my new profession: it was an 24 hour job.
I was in an endless cycle of feeding, pumping, recovering, eating, crying…until I discovered the reason for my baby’s breastfeeding issue had nothing to do with me: My baby was tongue-tie
LESSON 1: Speak with a trained experienced professional about tongue ties and YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION. Every baby and mommy is different, YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY, YOUR DELIVERY, YOUR BABY ARE ALL DIFFERENT…what worked for that other mom or friend may not work for you.
My daughter was diagnosed with type 3 posterior tongue tie by her pediatrician at Kindercare. Fortunately Dr. Flanders was trained by Dr. Jack Newman and the tie was released by scissors (a frenectomy). Amelia was 7 days old. The pediatrician was assisted by a lactation consultant (IBCLC), Lynda Kirby. She worked with me to breastfeed immediately after the frenectomy.
As she tried to latch my baby, the nipple damage still caused extreme pain. She tried to position my baby into the ideal position, but we realized the baby could not move her head backwards to drink milk. I was informed my baby needed a chiropractor. I AM A CHIROPRACTOR, but as a new mom, I was useless to perform an exam or treat my own baby. I did manage to remember some techniques I learned in school, which I attempted. Immediately my baby was able to move her head side to side, and backwards. But because my nipples were so damaged, I needed to have the perfect latch every time! That was the only way we could breastfeed, and even so, it was painful. I would cringed in pain, and dreaded every feed. We soon realized: the better the latch, the less the pain. So my husband drilled me, the same way a personal trainer would drill push-ups, to have the PERFECT LATCH. We used Helen Marshall’s handout
PART 2: HOW TO SUCESSFULLY BREASTFEED A TONGUE TIE BABY
A baby may have real reasons why it cannot breastfeed!
LESSON 2: HAVE YOUR BABY CHECKED BY A LICENSED PEDIATRIC MUSCULOSKELETAL SPECIALIST – this can be a chiropractor, osteopath, massage therapist…because of the delivery trauma, my baby could NOT turn her head, or extend her into the “BEER DRINKING POSITION”, nor could open her mouth wide, or use her tongue.
My chiropractor, Dawn Azzopardi, came to my house and treated both me and Amelia. We somehow got through our painful feeds. Feeding, as I would later find out, should be a lovely peaceful moment between mother and child. I dreaded our feeds, and the guilt associated with not being able to feed your child, is even worse!
I had two lactation consultants help me at home while I went to the hospital lactation consultants.
Unfortunately hospital IBCLCs have to work within “guidelines’. I got conflicting recommendations, became confused with the latch techniques (asymmetrical latch versus sandwiching my bruised breast), and feeding recommendations. The worse came after my ordeal: a very kind IBCLC at the hospital said to me: “ I wanted to tell you to have your baby checked by a CHIROPRACTOR, but I am not allowed”.
Lesson 3: HOSPITALS DO NOT RECOGNIZE TONGUE TIES UNLESS IT BECOMES AN ISSUE, AND WILL NOT REFER FOR MANUAL THERAPY… I do not understand how bleeding, cracked damaged nipple tissue and baby losing weight is NOT an issue.
We also had to supplement at the breast with formula. This was a complex procedure of dropping a tube into a bottle, hoping it doesn’t spill, and sliding the other end of the tube into the corner of baby’s mouth while breastfeeding. This was cumbersome, sometimes painful as the nipples were still injured. But it was the best way to keep baby at the breast, drinking milk. It took time but we eventually did it!
Pumping was equally painful and draining. After pumping I would get cold, and weak. I was in this vicious cycle of feed and supplement, pump, eat, rest, and cry. I ALSO HAD THE WRONG SIZE, another reason to speak with a IBCLC!
While my blood pressure rose, my milk supply had started to drop. Immediately I was put on domperidone. Because domperidone is a gastrointestinal drug, which side effects is milk production, I gained more weight than I did in during pregnancy. I accepted the weight gain for the sake of breastfeeding.
I somehow managed to pump, recover, breastfeed with a tube supplement for the next 3 weeks before the pain came back. Frustration and agony was coming back! I was doing everything correctly: perfect latch, pumping etc. But the pain was real... Desperate, I consulted with another IBCLC, she diagnosed the baby’s tongue had reattached. I was devastated, but also relieved.
LESSON 4: A Second Tongue Tie Release is NOT anyone’s failure, but “aftercare” is important!
An appointment was made for a SECOND TONGUE TIE RELEASE. Amelia was exactly 1 month old. This time I felt immediate relief of pain with breastfeeding! I realized my nipples had healed. This time we were instructed on tongue stretches. This…I could not do! My husband did all the tongue stretches, while I cried in another room. Amelia’s tongue bled for about a week…and I made sure she latched PERFECTLY immediately afterwards.
Slowly we were able to wean off supplementing at the breast with a tube. The process of inserting the tube was easier by then. I noticed slowly that baby was taking in less formula until I was just throwing away the supplement. By 2 months, breastfeeding “stabilized” and I could breastfeed without a tube supplement. That’s when I probably started reading about “communication elimination” because suddenly breastfeeding was no longer an exhausting process.
After about 2 weeks of stable breastfeeding, I began weaning off domperidone: 1 pill less every 2-3 days, checking in on my supply and baby’s fullness after feeding. I did it, we were breastfeeding, easily and blissfully…like nature intended!
PART 3: How to REALLY enjoying breastfeeding:
When you get pregnant, and have a baby, you will get so much advice. The only one that really matters is: Get a lactation consultant! Ideally immediately before and after the baby arrives.
Then, SURROUND YOURSELF WITH REAL SUPPORT:
- Get husbands/partners to help you get perfect your latch, or get you a smoothie or power bar while you breastfeed.
- Real friends will do groceries and bring you dinner, I could not believe my girlfriend would bring me a Starbucks just to feel human again
- There are some amazing family who cooks and can help with laundry.
- Pay someone if you need to, that’s what doula’s and mother’s helpers are, we have lost our “village”. In the mist of big city living, getting help is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO:
- Honor your recovery time, you just delivered a baby. There really needs to be a “baby/mommy honeymoon” time frame, especially if there was a C-section or any tearing and stitches for regular delivery.
- Remove from your life family and friends who want to help, but actually need to be “entertained”.
- To enjoy breastfeeding, BUY some “nursing” clothes that actually look good and are functional. The worse part after breastfeeding settles, is trying to find clothes you can go out with, and feel good in.
Finally, GET THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT: An IBCLC, chiropractor, dentist, pedricitian… 6 years ago, there was very little information on tongue ties in cyberworld. Now, there is so much controversy leaving many families confused. Your baby and your breastfeeding journey is unique, do yourself a favor and get personalized professional advice!
I went from not WANTING to have a baby, being told I COULD NOT have a baby…to a chiropractor who is a tongue tie, breastfeeding, chiropractic “specialist”. With my almost devastating experience, I began to research, started a Masters Program, attend conferences on infant muscloskeletal issues, breastfeeding and tongue ties.
Other moms began contacting me asking for assistance and treatments, so I had to educate myself, quickly! It is those moms that I am indebted to for trusting me, with their precious baby, during one of their most vulnerable, tiring times of their lives.
Other IBCLC also began contacting me. I am privileged and grateful to be given a role in assisting other moms and babies with tongue ties.
To assist a baby and mom get a pain-free latch and actually get baby’s tummy full is truly priceless! It is worth all my education, and painful experiences! I know that this mom and baby are on a unique, precious journey of breastfeeding, and because they persisted, worked together and overcame their challenges, the trust and bond will prepare them for life.
Thank you for reading, I welcome your comments and stories so I too may learn from you.
With aloha, Darlene