Breastfeeding and tongue tie - Our story.

Saturday, 17 March 2018
When I first fell pregnant I felt pretty relaxed about whether I would breastfeed or not... 

... then once I saw Theo's natural instinct kick in and watched him search for a feed from my breast, a switch flicked and I so desperately wanted it to work.

I think my relaxed attitude came from not being breastfed myself and not many people in my family had been or were breastfeeding. I went to the classes and made notes (very studious) and thought we'll just see how we go.

Theo's first feed seemed to go well. It was the second and third feed where the trouble started. If you have read our birth story, you'll know that we spent a few days on a high dependency ward after delivery and as wonderful as the care I received was, the breastfeeding support was non existent. 

Theo wouldn't latch AT ALL and every time I asked for support someone would turn up in the room, congratulate me for hand expressing 1ml, we'd syringe it into Theo's mouth and we'd be left again. 1ml!!!! Theo was a hungry baby, 1ml wasn't keeping him satisfied for anymore than 20 minutes. 

After two days, lots of tears and not a lot of milk, my husband called for some support from a family member, a nurse who works on a Neo Natal ward and helps the new mums breast feed the prem babies. She came to our rescue, Theo finally latched on and had a huge feed! We've got this, I thought... we didn't have it. 

Another couple of days in hospital and his feeding deteriorated again. This time a midwife diagnosed him with tongue tie but said we could still feed, we just had to keep persevering and feed through the pain. A day or two later and it was time for us to leave the hospital. I'm convinced we left with a starving baby, he showed all the signs, but my notes read "breastfeeding well" so we were sent on our way without any concern.

Four days with Theo and both nipples were already severely cracked, it was time to break into the emergency bottle of formula. This is how it continued for the next three days, trying to get Theo to latch at every feed and topping him up with formula if he didn't seem satisfied. It was so difficult! I even spent one evening crying down the phone to a stranger from Le Leche League after it all just seemed a bit too overwhelming for me.

My milk finally came it on day six but it still didn't get any easier, not for another six weeks.

I was now exclusively feeding him (apart from one bottle of expressed milk that his dad would feed him in the evening). I was producing enough milk, but the pain, oh the pain! I've never felt anything like it and sometimes Theo would want to feed for an hour and a half at a time. Six weeks of me crying almost every time I fed Theo. Wincing every time he showed that he needed feeding and knowing how uncomfortable I was about to feel. It was time to get some more support... this can't be how it's supposed to be but yet I still really really wanted it to work.

I took myself to our local feeding group when Theo was six weeks old. Bee, who runs the group took one look at Theo, after I showed her my very sore boobies and she diagnosed tongue tie again and insisted we got it dealt with ASAP! 

After lots of emails and phone calls we finally got an appointment for Theo to have the tongue tie cut when he was nine weeks old. When I bought him home after the procedure he couldn't latch... again. I cried ... again. I thought we'd lost breastfeeding, but he just needed to retrain. 

I think it took around three-four weeks for me to notice any difference but finally feeding was pain free. Three months of being in the most discomfort and I was only just starting to understand the joy of breastfeeding.

Our breastfeeding story isn't a great one but I don't think it is that uncommon, often because of the lack of support women get, particularly in hospital. Thankfully there are groups out there that can support you, we still go to ours every fortnight, I love it there!

Establishing breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I have ever done and I'm not really sure anyone ever prepared me for that. Maybe if I'd of looked for the stories when I was pregnant I would've realised but as I said earlier it wasn't ever something I thought I was that bothered about, until it seemed it was something I couldn't do. But that probably just says a lot about my personality! Ha!

I'm so glad I stuck with it, but when I think about how pain free it is now, I do wonder if I was a bit stupid to keep putting myself through that amount of pain. Serious pain!

I'm going to leave you with a few tips that might help you if you're struggling. Also know that my discomfort does seem like a bit of an extreme case (I think) and it does get easier, in time. Probably quicker than the three months it took us!

Tips to work through breastfeeding

- Breastfeeding IS painful, they say if it is then you're doing it wrong but not in those first few weeks. If it's still uncomfortable after 2-3 weeks, go and find support but yes, those first feeds are not (usually) all that pleasant. 

- Take each feed at a time and give yourself credit when you get through a feed. It really is a great feeling when you think about what your body is doing.

- Get your partner to support you. If it wasn't for my husband I'm not sure I would still be breastfeeding now. 

- Go to a support group, seriously get to one! Their knowledge and time is invaluable.

- Nipple cream will be your best friend and you'll panic if you can't find it!

- Stay hydrated because constipation when feeding is just awful!

- Formula is not the devil's milk and if you want to do a combination of breast and formula in those early days, do! Theo was just too hungry to wait for 6 days for my milk to come in.

- Introduce a bottle of EBM once breastfeeding is established so that your baby doesn't become averse to a bottle.

- Lastly, I used to look at women in coffee shops feeding their babies and think "it looks easy enough" but it's taken me a good few months to get to that point. It is one of the most natural things to do but it's definitely something you both need to learn and work at. Now we're (almost) pros and I can honestly say I absolutely love breastfeeding my baby!

I might follow this post up with some products that also helped me along the way, let me know if this is something you would be interested in. 

I hope this has helped you and if you have anything you think I might be able to help further with, please ask.

Amy x

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