Breastfeeding, the most natural thing a mother can do for her child.
Breastfeeding is HARD. Breastfeeding takes determination. Breastfeeding takes commitment, and mostly breastfeeding is something that needs to be learnt by not only the mother but also the baby.
Of course, babies instincts kick in once they are born, but there are so many factors that can make it difficult, in my case it was a tongue tie.
What is a tongue tie?
A tongue tie medically known as ankyloglossia is when the strip of skin (frenulum) that joins a babies tongue to its mouth is shorter than usual.
The issues this causes is that baby cannot move there tongue as they need to, to latch on to the breast for breastfeeding.
My breastfeeding journey from the beginning
From before I started trying for babies I always knew I wanted to breastfeed, there were several reasons for my choice, but the three main ones being:
- It’s FREE
- It is the best thing for baby as it is specifically designed for them
- It is great for supporting the ‘snap back’ as the act of breastfeeding causes the womb to contract quicker.
So when I found out I was pregnant with my eldest Zach, I didn’t even consider buying bottles or formula, sterilising equipment as I didn’t plan on using it.
The day he was born
I won’t go into details but he was born at 42 weeks, via emergency c-section and they had to use foreceps to pull his head from the birthing canal (hence the bruise on his face).
The poor little man was born with a huge headache and jaw ache which we saw a cranial osteopath about, but this in itself didn’t support the start of our breastfeeding journey.
I was numb from the neck down when he was born as the spinal they were using took ages to take effect so I think the anaesthesiologist pumped me full, so once I was in the recovery room I wasn’t able to put him on my breast as I wasn’t able to hold him.
Once I did have the feeling back, this is when I had the support of the midwives in trying to get him to breastfeed, it didn’t work, from the off he literally just screamed when I tried to put him on my breast.
I have an older sister who had two children who both had a tongue tie so I knew what one was so this is one of the first thing I asked them to check when he wasn’t latching successfully.
The first midwife that checked said no, there is no tongue tie, but I knew there was, I could tell, he was unable to move his tongue past his lips, but I will be honest, I was exhausted, I was overwhelmed and I was in pain, so I kept on trying.
After a few hours of him being born I was still not having any luck, so I asked another midwife to check and again to see if he has a tongue tie, again I got told no, he was fine. It was at this point I asked to speak with the breastfeeding specialists. As he was born on a Sunday they weren’t in until the Monday so I would have to wait until the next day.
This did not help my situation, Zach had not eaten since he had been born, so the midwives showed me how to hand express and gave me a syringe to feed him what I was able to express which at this point was not even 1ml of colostrum.
Honestly I felt like a failure, I felt like there was something wrong with me, I felt disheartened and like I was unable to do the one thing that as a mother I should naturally be able to do, feed my child!
Overnight, I had a different midwife come and support me in trying to feed Zach as at this point we were both getting quite upset, him because he was hungry and me because I felt like a failure, but the midwife bought me something called a nipple shield.
These pretty much act like a teat for your nipple, the baby has something they can physically latch onto to help stimulate the milk flow.
They helped, he was able to latch, but not very well due to him tongue, and my nipple was a wreck but he was getting some colostrum so that’s all that matters.
The breastfeeding specialist came to see me that morning, and she did another check on Zach’s tongue and agreed that he had a tongue tie, and it was at around 90% which meant he had little or no movement in his tongue which explains completely why he couldn’t latch.
Honestly the feeling of relief that I felt after hearing that what I thought was true, and knowing that in fact I wasn’t a failure, however the next available appointment to see the NHS Tongue Tie Practitioner wasn’t for another two weeks.
Going home from the hospital
Honestly I was happy to be going home but also really anxious as I had no idea how I was going to feed Zach once I was there, as I knew my sister had experience I asked her what she thought I should do and this is when I decided to start using a breast pump and feeding Zach via a bottle.
I had been gifted a breast pump while I was pregnant so I got this out of storage and started using it on day 2 of Zach’s life, I sent my husband off to boots to buy some bottles as we didn’t have any, I primed a Milton Cold Water Steriliser off Amazon, and started pumping.
Thankfully my sister had a friend who also had a pump that I was able to borrow, as pumping from both breasts at the same time is always better as you get better stimulation for milk production.
Then on day 4, my dad was able to hire me a double pump for a month from one of the local children’s centres which made my life a hell of a lot easier.
I am not going to lie exclusively pumping is hard work, I had an alarm set for every 3 hours 24/7, I would get up grab the pump and bottles from the steriliser, sit and pump for 30 mins, wash and pop the pump back in the steriliser then feed Zach, the whole process took around an hour to an hour an a half dependent on dirty nappies etc.
During the night I was getting around 1 hours sleep in between alarms, it was horrendous and not something I could keep up consistently, I managed a week and a half before I looked up a Private Tongue Tie Practitioner and booked an appointment.
Getting his frenotomy done
What is a frenotomy? It is a medical procedure where the practitioner cuts the frenulum with sterile scissors to free the tongue.
It isn’t very painful and heals very quickly, but this procedure is what needs to be done on babies with severe tongue ties, as it not only stops them being able to feed during infancy it can also sometimes cause issues in later life.
The procedure was done in seconds and the practitioner helped me for around an hour afterwards to see if we could get Zach to latch on.
It didn’t work, although he was only 2 weeks old, he has gotten used to the instant gratification of being bottle fed so didn’t want to have to work to get my milk to flow.
However we cam up with a plan, I was to nipple shield feed and try to get him to latch from time to time directly on the breast.
Nipple Shield Feeding
Nipple shield feeding exclusively was much better, it meant that I was able to feed Zach on demand, which is the more natural way of doing things.
Although it did come with its own issues, nipple shield feeding is messy, milk leaks out while they are feeding as there is not a full seal around the breast, if had to carry around small steriliser to ensure that the shield was clean and sterile every time I used it, and then generally the awkwardness of having to put it on prior to feeding and running the risk of Zach knocking it off while I was trying to get him to latch.
I got used to it though and it became the norm before long.
As was suggested by the Tongue Tie Practitioner I would try Zach directly on the breast from time to time, I had no luck for a long time, however one day, while chilling on the sofa feeding Zach, he had a horrible cold so was quite drowsy and miserable, I tried him directly on the breast and he latched!!
The day that changed my breastfeeding journey
Zach was 4 months old, when he latched onto me properly for the first time, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Doing one of my random checks to see whether Zach would latch, the feel of him latching and the joy, excitement, the happiness was amazing, I remember calling me husband as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t disturb him and make him stop.
It took two more feeds to get him completely off the nipple shields but he took to it amazingly and from then on our journey was as normal.
I stopped breastfeeding him when he was 8 months old after he bit me so hard my nipple was bleeding, but I was happy to stop, it had been a rough journey but totally worth it!
Breastfeeding takes determination.
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing a mother can do for her child, yes it is, but it’s not always as easy as they make out.
I know a lot of mothers who would not have gone through what I did to make their breastfeeding journey successful, not because they are bad mothers, but because of the mental and physical strain it takes to go through all of that is enough to put anyone off.
If it wasn’t for my pure determination and stubbornness to do it, as I am not going to like I am I don’t let things beat me, I downright refused to not let it happen.
Every single parents breastfeeding journey is different, every single child’s breastfeeding journey is different, my second child Ollie, was born very a very calm elected section and latched straight away and we had a wonderful 18months of breastfeeding without any issues.
Yes he also had a tongue tie, yes I had it cut as I did Zach’s but his was minor and it was causing an uncomfortable painful latch, once it was done our journey was perfect.
My advice to you, if you want to breastfeed your child
If you are due to have a baby and are determined to breastfeed like I was, please do it, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, that you shouldn’t because it doesn’t work straight away.
There is so much support out there, there are things available to support you, and just make sure that you get heard if you are struggling, make as much noise as you can and don’t take no for an answer.
But also on the flip side, if you try and it all gets a bit too much and you don’t wish to carry on, don’t forget you are amazing, you did all that you could, and that is absolutely perfect!