sam’s story and tongue tie

Sam’s Story of feeding and tongue tie

My mother breast fed all her children so it was a concept that I was used to. However, when I was pregnant I made a pact with myself that I was not going to stress, and that included the thought of breast feeding and what happened if “it did not work”. I was relaxed about the fact that I would pop it (i didnt know the gender) on the bottle.

Fast forward to birth, which never really got going after having to be induced for reduced feta-  movements, and I was whipped in to have an emergency c-section (the only thing on my birthing plan I didn’t want) and out popped my little boy.

As the midwives checked him over we heard the words severe tongue tie (the frenulum was attached to the tip of his tongue). My husband and I looked at each other and thought tongue tie, that’s just a phrase….we were about to discover not.

After I was sorted and my little one all checked over we had some time for skin to skin in recovery. As soon as he was on me he performed a 90 degree turn and went right for my nipple to suck. It was at this point I realised all the reading and NCT classes in the world would not teach you what to do, this would have to be a journey that the three of us, my husband included, would have to travel and learn.

The first few days of feeding in hospital involved a lot of help, de-latching and re-latching. Feeds were taking hours and my little boy would not settle. I thought that I had run out of colostrum – no one ever said that was not possible. I couldn’t find a position that worked and although I could hand express enough to use and electric pump it felt like my nipples were going to be vacuumed into next week, bringing me to tears. Behind all of this was a deep seated panic that I would not be able to breast feed and guilt that I had to “top up” as it turns out, I loved breast feeding.

I loved everything about breastfeeding, the closeness, the peace, the look of utter contentment when feeding, the cute milk drunk face when finished!

By week two my left nipple was getting sore but I thought that’s normal with the early days breast feeding. Then came a little blister on the end of it. Then came a 1cm gash that would not heal. The medical support kept saying that when we get the tongue tie sorted it will work itself out. But that didn’t help me now as I writhed in pain every time he latched on and as the stress escalated for night time feeds.

I was suffering heavily from other impacts of the tongue tie (and poor latch as I now know). My breasts were engorged all the time, leaking everywhere, lumpy and sore.  But I kept plodding on, even on the day I had to express from my left side as I couldn’t cope with the pain of latching on. And no one still said this is not right.

Finally, after three weeks we got the tongue tie sorted, but the miraculous improvement I had been promised did not materialise. I needed help, so off in toddled to my local breastfeeding network group – an hour away – where a very nice lady sat down with me for an hour, watched me feed, talked through latching and different positions and I walked out feeling a little more confident about what to do. And the rest as they say is history. After a few days of retraining my little boy got the latch and all was well.

That is not the end of my story though. The engorgement did not stop (I think I had enough milk to do my own version of the feeding of the 5,000) and through trial and error I realised I needed to feed on one breast until empty, often block feeding 2- 3 times. Teemed with this, I always used to offer the second breast, well he wasn’t draining one so used to sick it back up, so I stopped doing that. The health professionals told me that if he is feeding for 20 minutes at a time he should be going four hours between feeds. Well at two hours he was acting like he wanted more, so i would put him in a pram and try to stretch it out. By four weeks old my little boy fed every hour during the day and every half hour in the evening (but  slept 10-7 with one night feed at 5am – there had to be a plus to being chained to the sofa all day!!).

“He cannot be hungry again”, ” you shouldn’t feed him to sleep”, “he is just feeding for comfort”, “can you not just express so we can go out for a meal” and so many more. People trying to be helpful and me questioning if i was doing it wrong. As it happens I had just fallen into responsive feeding, something that I think to be the most natural and rewarding thing going. I cannot imagine being a mother without breastfeeding (although I am currently experiencing it as my little boy is on nursing strike which we are working through). It is quite honestly the most rewarding thing I have done and so soothing for all parties involved. It is not about breast being best, it is breast being normal, what we do. And any sacrifice, worth it for the love that you get back.

If I could say one thing to any new mum, its that breastfeeding is like evolution. It constantly changes. Whether learning to latch, changing positions as they and you get better at it. You just have to ride through each challenge, as we all have our own which seems like the biggest thing in the world no matter how small. But you work it out, whether through Google or other forms of support. I was lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive husband and mum.

And my evolution continues as I have trained up to be a local breastfeeding peer support volunteer to return the favour to someone else that the breastfeeding network gave me