They say if you want to see God laugh, show him your plans. So when I got pregnant with my first son and planned for an all natural birth, I knew God was laughing when I ended up with a C-section. Just what I needed to teach me a lesson in humility and healing.
So with baby number 2, when I got my successful VBAC I was thrilled and thought that everything would be a breeze there after. What I didn’t take into account, was that I would have problems with breast-feeding, which had gone so easily with my first son. I thought that I was savvy. I knew my way around a boob and a baby and thought I could avoid the “greedy” formula companies. Breast-feeding was just a matter of determination, I thought. Whats that? You can hear God laughing at me too?
The first sign that something was wrong was that Pierce was constantly fussy but I just dismissed it as a growth spurt. The sore nipples? I could handle that, it was probably just from the constant nursing. Give him a bottle of formula? NEVER!! That could sabotage my supply!
It wasn’t until I went in for his one-month appointment that I had to face the truth that breastfeeding wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. The pediatrician coldly pointed out to me that Pierce had not gained enough weight and that I needed to start supplementing and see a lactation consultant ASAP. I felt like a failure.
I had been under a lot of stress (not baby related) on top of everything else and thought that I was the one ruining my milk supply. Luckily, I met with Sarah, an awesome Lactation Consultant, who was warm and understanding, unlike the cold pediatrician. Sarah helped me create a plan for supplementing and pumping that would help Pierce gain weight and help me get my supply back up. The plan made me feel in control and although it was hard to give baby Pierce his first formula supplement, I knew it was what he needed.
After Pierce had gained some weight, Sarah suggested that he might have a lip and tongue tie. She told me that most babies that come in with a failure to thrive usually do have a tongue tie and that his latch looked pretty shallow. That was news to me, he had been checked by other lactation consultants before and no one had ever told me he had a tongue tie. That night I read up on lip and tongue ties and realized that Pierce had many of the symptoms. I was relieved to have a source of the breastfeeding difficulties, but upset that I was figuring it out so late in the game.
Tongue and lip ties affect the way babies latch on to the breast. This can makes them inefficient feeders. And since the amount of milk production is based on demand, mom’s milk supply often drops, leading to a hungry, fussy baby.
Sarah gave me a referral to a well known ENT to have the tongue tie resolved. I looked forward to that day like it was Christmas. The procedure itself was not too bad: just a little snip with some scissors and a little crying. Pierce’s latch was a little better, but it wasn’t the miracle cure I was hoping for. Breastfeeding was still painful and Pierce still wasn’t getting enough. I had a feeling there was still a problem
I went back to see Sarah and she suggested that we get the tongue tie re-clipped. She also thought that he had a lip tie, which she had told me before, but the ENT said he would wait to check it out at the follow-up. She told me it was pretty common to have to re-do the procedure either because the doctor was conservative or because scar tissue had built up.
For the second surgery, I chose to go to Dr. Robert Marcus, a dentist out of Reisterstown, MD. He was recommended to me by several people I trust and he uses a laser, which makes a cleaner cut than the scissors. He was also trained to do the procedure by the person who invented it (or at least that’s what my sister told me). Dr. Marcus was cool, very Baltimore, and his office was unpretentious with lots of Disney memorabilia. This time the procedure took a little longer and there was a lot more crying (mostly for the lip tie). As a mom, its very hard to watch your little one in pain. Pierce wanted to nurse right after the surgery but I guess his mouth was still numb because he couldn’t quite figure it out. That stressed me out, but Dr. Marcus told me that was normal. He also gave me more detailed information on how and how often to do the tongue and lip stretches to prevent the build-up of scar tissue. Overall, it was a way better experience than going to the ENT.
It has been about 2 weeks since we had the tongue and lip tie done and Pierce is feeding a lot better. Nursing him is no longer painful and he is more satisfied after feedings, which means he is getting more milk! Although my supply has improved with pumping and with his better latch, I still need to supplement him with about 6oz of formula each day.
Although breastfeeding has not gone so well this time around, I am grateful. These struggles help me to empathize with other moms who have faced similar problems. They also allowed me to relax a little bit about giving Pierce a bottle of formula, since there was no other choice. I remember always stressing and being anxious about making enough milk for my older son, Cyrus, this time I can be a little more laid back. I am also just grateful that, with Sarah’s help, I am able to continue breastfeeding in some capacity and that Pierce is now healthy and thriving!
Did you breastfeed your babies? What challenges did you face?