Make yourself a cuppa & grab a yummy biscuit. Lets get stuck in, read on….
Did anyone watch BBC news breakfast on Tuesday morning? The chances are, that if you’re reading this you probably did. Or you’ve landed here after scoring the internet for advice and help on tongue tie. Before my little bear was born, I’d heard the phrase ‘tongue tie’ being used in a jovial way for when you got your words all muddled up. Shortly after his slightly dramatic entrance into the world I had the displeasure of understanding it’s origin. Not a laughing matter I assure you. I won’t give you the medical low down, you can read that here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tongue-tie/Pages/Introduction.aspx
I will tell you about my experience, and I hope in some way it can help anyone going through a similar situation.
You can see left, how restricted Bear’s tongue movement is. & right- nickname bear, & a bear by nature!
As you read on, it may be difficult to wrap your head around why I seemed so hell bent on pursuing breastfeeding, given everything I came up against? & In retrospect 2 years down the line, I often think ‘Wow, I was stubborn’. I feel so grateful that I had such an amazing support network around who backed me for persevering with breastfeeding, yet were really reassuring that if I wanted or needed to switch to formula this was perfectly ok too. I feel like I made the best decisions for Bear & me, at that particular time & that’s the most important thing. Would I handle it differently now? Maybe, maybe not. I’m satisfied I coped the best way I could back then. Ultimately I did what I intrinsically felt was right in that moment.
So I said bear made a slightly dramatic entrance into the world. The point is regardless of how he arrived, he did. He was healthy, here & that was the ultimate goal. After a ridiculous amount of hours in ‘active’ labour on just gas & air, I had an epidural & eventually ended up needing an emergency C-section. It couldn’t have been further from my ‘hypnotherapy-water-natural- birth please’ but I’d always remained realistic, that these things no matter how well you prepare yourself, just don’t always go to ‘plan’. As crazy as it sounds, I think it’s fair to say I always like to feel ‘in control’ & I may be stating the bloody obvious, that during the birth process this gets thrown out the window (along with all your heirs and graces)! But having total control taken away & being told ‘We have to deliver your baby with medical intervention/ major surgery’ I think sent me off on a crusade afterwards. I wanted to do everything within my power to be ‘natural’ & ‘breast is best’ blah, blah, blah. When I was in a very sorry state with nipples so severely damaged that I’d rather have been in labour again, this was my driving force. Slightly crazy. No, downright bonkers really.
Baby bear: the first few weeks (hours old, days old, weeks old). As close to a breastfeeding picture i would allow to be taken!
I knew from the very first feed in hospital something was wrong. I took full advantage of the nursing staff around & asked if he was latching on properly at every opportunity. They reassured me that his latch was great & it was just because my nipples needed to ahem, ‘toughen up’ (What? Really?) & Explained that once milk production started it would be fine. Being a ‘first time mummy’ I just accepted this advice, I knew no different. & It’s hardly a hot topic whilst you’re pregnant, talking about what happens to your ‘udders’ in the early stages of feeding. I avidly followed a certain baby magazine & not once did I see any articles about breastfeeding hurting. You just presume that baby goes on & ‘voilà’ they feed. At least, that’s what I thought.
I had to stay in hospital for a couple of nights & I feel this was the worst but part of the whole delivery/ post birth for me: there you are, with your new bundle of joy, you’re recovering from major surgery, your husband/ partner is not allowed to stay, you’re all on your own. & Your baby just won’t stop screaming (Even though he’s become a permanent fixture to you breast for what feels like all night). You’re sharing a room with 3 other mother & babies and one rude, condescending mum turns to you and says ‘You need to feed your baby’. Now, had I my wits about me I would have responded to her with my sharp tongue. But I felt like there was something seriously wrong with bubba’s feeding & her comment only served to increase my worry.
- Baby bear starting to look skinny-worrying times
When I returned home, M commented on how much bear cried. Was it normal for a newborn to scream that much? Talk about feeling helpless. At 5 days old, my lovely photographer friend Lyanne visited to do a newborn shoot with us. She gets you to feed baby so they’re ‘milk drunk’ & snoozy, it makes for some great pictures (see below)! But little bear just didn’t want to cooperate with this. Ly observed Bear feeding & advised me to check with my midwife if he was tongue tied so I did, straight away. This was dismissed immediately. Ly wasn’t convinced & neither was I, so I asked for second & even 3rd opinions. Dismissed every time, I resided myself to the fact that breastfeeding was just this bloody painful & required me to shed a tear every time a feed happened. I envied seeing women so easily feeding their child.
Little bear at 5 days old. www.lyannewylde.com
Mummy & baby bonding time, bliss! & a Photo shy but ever so proud daddy…… www.lyannewylde.com
At 3 weeks old, I will say I hit a brick wall. I just couldn’t carry on being in so much pain. I wanted to enjoy & savour every precious moment bonding with bear, not fearing the pain. With so much conflicting advice about mixed feeding I just didn’t know what to do. I visited a local drop in feeding clinic where a lovely lady confirmed Bear was in fact severely tongue tied (90%). How the bloody hells bells, did that keep getting missed?! A referral to Kings Collage Hospital London was made for a ‘tongue division’, but I was warned this would take at least 3 weeks. Panic ensued within me. By this point, Bear had lost weight & it was starting to get very worrying: my GP & midwife were really concerned. I could not wait 3 weeks. I wouldn’t. It was early December, what if we had snow & it was delayed even further? In sheer desperation, I searched high & low and found a lady who would come to you & perform the procedure. I researched her & asked my local feeding clinic: although legally they weren’t allowed to recommend anyone, they said this particular lady was well known & had a great reputation. My husband M & I affectionately referred to her as ‘the boobie lady’, her name was Ann Dobson. She deserves a medal. I’m not sure what we would have done without her. She had visited us within a day of calling her & performed the tongue dividing procedure immediately. Unfortunately Bear had to have this operation repeated a few weeks later due to scar tissue formation.
Eventually he started feeding better, I was able to express milk as well as breastfeed to top him up (& allow my nipples to heal) & he would have a little formula to help him along also. I’d suffered 3 bouts of mastitis, and severe nipple trauma & started to make a slow recovery from this. At 5 months I had taken all i could, & it was a easy transition to formula (I’m still not sure my nipples have forgiven me for the sheer bloody torture!)
We were extremely fortunate to have financial assistance from family to be able to afford a private practitioner, for which we are ever so grateful. This isn’t going to be an option for everyone, but what mother with a newborn will be prepared to wait 3 weeks when their child is already suffering? It’s incredibly frustrating that this can be so easily diagnosed & treated; yet there just doesn’t seem to be enough sufficiently trained ‘medical’ staff for this. I stumbled across a petition today calling for a mandatory check for tongue tie as routine postnatal examination http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57164. We can only hope, right?
I can hardly believe that in just over 2 years this is the first time I’ve heard tongue tie being discussed in the media. I’m so pleased it’s being explained on a platform such as the BBC & it can only serve to help raise the profile of this condition.