It’s World Breastfeeding Week and you’ll most likely see tons of posts promoting on how breastfeeding is a natural instinct for moms, better for babies and lots of other things that are aimed to heighten the practice. That’s all great, BUT let’s be honest…breastfeeding is not always easy. It doesn’t always come easy for moms (especially new moms who have no idea what to do), and there is a learning curve to the so-called natural practice.
Seven years ago, when I was a hopeful new mom, I thought breastfeeding was going to be easy. After all, I had taken the breastfeeding class at the hospital I was delivering at, read all the books and even practiced the holds at home with an old doll. Fast forward to his birthday, and all that knowledge went out the window as I tried to learn how to nurse after a C-section. It hurt A LOT and was told it was normal to be in a pain for a few days until my nipples got used to the act.
It took about a month to really get used to it, with every latch providing my body with a piercing pain that I just fought through because breast was best (as I was told). I’m the type of person that doesn’t give up easily, so I just took the pain and figured this was how it was supposed to be. I’d love to say that my breastfeeding journey got better after that month, but it was never something that just clicked. It was always a painful struggle, and a bout of thrush didn’t help matters. Let’s just say I got through eight months of it and then switched to formula.
For my second baby, I figured I knew what to expect and I could get through it just like my first. But something was totally off as I felt that piercing pain much more intensely than my first every time my son latched. I was starting to get discouraged and had a lactation consultant come to my home two days after I was discharged for my second C-section. It was the BEST thing I had ever done because she explained to me how my son had a tongue and lip tie (which was actually pretty severe). This was why I was in such excruciating pain with every latch.
A tongue tie is when caused by a short or tight lingual frenulum, which is the membrane that anchors the tongue to the mouth’s floor. Usually, it get thin and recedes before birth, but when it doesn’t, it restricts the tongue’s mobility and the baby’s ability to suck. A lip tie is when when the frenulum of the upper lip is too thick or large, prohibiting the baby from correctly moving its mouth to suck the nipple. Not only does it hurt like hell, but it also can result in baby not gaining weight as expected because they’re not getting enough breastmilk.
She referred me to a dentist that specialized in tongue and lip tie laser revision (another option was an ENT doctor who would cut the ties instead of using a laser). I was nervous and not sure what to expect, but most of all scared for my 7-day old newborn. The procedure was quick and, yes, he cried, but it was over before I knew it. I was able to hold him during the procedure and think I cried more than him. I was given instructions on how care for the small wound, as well as what sort of mouth stretches were needed to be done daily so that the ties wouldn’t reattach. I was also told I’d be able to breastfeed an hour after and there shouldn’t be any (or as much pain as before).
That first latch after the procedure was the hardest because I was scared he’d be in pain after the procedure, and I was going to have to endure more pain on my already cracked, torn, bleeding and sore nipples. But to my surprise, it was really easy and didn’t hurt one bit. It was the best feeling in the world knowing that I wouldn’t have to mentally prepare myself for the pain at every feeding. I was relieved that my relationship with breastfeeding was saved. I then figured my oldest had a tie, too, but I didn’t even know about them back then. It’s not something doctors really tell you.
In fact, when I asked my pediatrician about the procedure, he just shrugged it off as unnecessary and something that would eventually go away. But it was that lactation consultant, who really educated me on tongue and lip ties and saved my breastfeeding journey. I was able to go an entire year and was so proud!
For my third, there was no doubt that I would hire a lactation consultant again because the nurses at the hospital also shrugged off tongue and lip ties as something that would go away on its own. Sure enough, my daughter had the same and we had to get it taken care of by the same doctor. However, because I knew about what tongue and lip ties were about, I was able to get hers corrected at only 3-days old. Again, we breastfed for a year with out any problems (except the usual plugged ducts and one bout of mastitis).
It’s funny how tongue and lip ties aren’t really talked about by doctors. New moms know nothing about it, and I’ve encountered many other moms who have had it done and they say the same thing. I encourage all new moms (whether it’s your first or not) to really see a lactation consultant outside of the hospital. Not only will you get personalized breastfeeding advice, but you’ll also be able to diagnose a lip and tongue tie, which can make all the difference in your breastfeeding journey. There’s even free services for lactation consultants depending on the city you live in (I paid for the first one with my second son, and was able to find free resources with the city of Riverside for my third).
If you have any questions about tongue and lip ties, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! I can help guide you on what to look for, what to expect for the procedure and more.