I don’t care what anyone says. Committing to breastfeeding your baby for as long as you can is one of the most challenging, overwhelming, exhausting things in this world.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s also very special and rewarding.
As with any other true commitment, breastfeeding takes hard work, dedication, and determination on mom’s part.
Throw in a little curve ball where the baby just won’t latch properly or he is choking, gagging and spitting up everywhere and you’re THAT much closer to throwing in the towel.
Although having a baby is an indescribable experience, it can also be very stressful and overwhelming because EVERYTHING is new.
Nobody can prepare you for this no matter how many moms you speak to prior to your delivery. NO ONE can predict how you’re going to feel. Not even you.
If you’re having challenges with breastfeeding, there are lots of things you can do such as requesting some in-home visits from a lactation consultant, attending breastfeeding support groups at your local hospital, or checking out La Leche League.
I have even found some lactation consultants through Instagram who just willingly gave me free support and advice. The groups and communities that are available to mothers truly are incredible.
However, when the breastfeeding struggle is REAL, it can be all encompassing and all of a sudden you don’t know where to turn.
You feel alone, defeated, and really sad.
“There must be something wrong with me.” you convince yourself. “Is there something wrong with my baby?” you cry. Then your worries snowball and you eventually find yourself buried deep in your negative, frightening thoughts.
I know. Trust me. I know.
One of the absolute worst feelings is the fear of not being able to provide your child with that liquid gold your body is producing JUST FOR HIM.
“What if I just can’t do it and he starves to death!?” (Won’t happen but I said the same thing).
“What if I feel like it really isn’t working and then I have to put him on formula?” (If you’re concerned about formula brands and ingredients, check out Picky Eater Blog: What’s the Best Organic Formula for Your Baby?)
“Well, what if I physically can’t breastfeed, will my baby still love me!?” (You are MOM. The center of their little worlds and you will be immensely loved regardless.)
How do I know all of this?
Because I’ve lived it. I’m still currently living it. I’ve breastfed an average of 1500+ times so far with this kid. Ya… I did the calculations one day and it blew my mind. How do I still have nipples?
My breastfeeding struggles led me to some facts and information I had never really heard of before and I want to share them with you in hopes that it helps even one new mom.
Here’s my story…
Before my son was born, I had ALL of these worries and more. I already wanted to be the best mother in the entire world for him (talk about pressure, right? We’re SO hard on ourselves.) But, because preparing for worst-case scenarios is something I’m really good at (wtf kind of trait is that), I gained a lot of insight, knowledge, and resources around breastfeeding.
SO… I must have been fully prepared and had the MOST successful time breastfeeding, right? WRONG.
After my son was born, the lactation consultants in the hospital helped me just like they help every other new mom. It was a quick check-in here and there. My son wasn’t latching perfectly but they didn’t seem too worried about it so I wasn’t either.
Then we went home.
Two months went by where I watched my son struggle to latch and pull milk out. Looking back on it now, I cannot believe I let it go that long but I literally had no idea what breastfeeding what supposed to be like. I sat there session after session bleeding and wincing in pain. I even cried during it because it hurt SO BAD. This is coming from someone who had a completely natural delivery by the way.
Worst of all…
My son gagged, choked, and made weird sounds with his throat from the moment he was born. We had an insanely scary episode where we brought him to the hospital one night after he seemed to be choking for a few seconds (which felt like an eternity). “What the heck is wrong!?” I kept asking. “I feel like something is wrong with his throat.”
No one could explain it to me. Not even doctors or nurses. “He’s fine.” they assured me. “His throat just needs to mature.”
But like every other mom with instincts, I knew something else was going on. I just knew.
That’s when I finally stumbled upon the greatest (and weirdest?) information I’ve ever received.
He was lip tied.
AND tongue tied.
What the heck does that mean????
Ya, that was my question too.
The more research I did on it, the more I discovered that it is an enormous issue that so many new mothers know nothing about. It seems to be one of the biggest reasons that breastfeeding ends up being unsuccessful. Typically, they don’t check for this in the hospital unless you ask.
GREAT. Now what do I do!?
More talking to other moms.
Eventually, I joined this Facebook group: Tongue Tie Lip Tie Babies Support Group. 15,000 mothers belong to this group. There are literally thousands of mothers online who belong to these types of groups. THOUSANDS.
This goes to show how many babies are born with a tie and how many breastfeeding relationships end up in jeopardy because of it.
Finally, after a consultation that confirmed what I already knew, I booked an appointment for surgery.
Holy balls, surgery? This can’t be real. I’m gonna cry.
Since we live in MA, I booked this appointment with Dr. Fawn Rosenberg who owns Lexington Smile Studio . She knows EVERYTHING about lip and tongue ties.
So, what happened next? Well, surgery went well and we were on our way!
Ok, I’m kidding.
I booked an appointment, drove all the way to Lexington, walked into the office, cried, then turned around and drove home. I couldn’t follow through with it! My mind just wasn’t ready.
I went home and suffered through some more nursing sessions for another MONTH. At this point, I had read too many negative surgery stories and tried to convince myself that my son really didn’t have this issue. Eventually, he had grown used to breastfeeding using ALL of his energy (his poor jaw) because it was the only way he could get anything out. He would just pass out afterward. I still feel terrible about it.
Then, enough was enough.
I booked another appointment. This time, I asked my husband to come with us for support. We went as a family and this relieved so much pressure because then I didn’t feel like this was just MY decision.
Once we got into the office and things were underway, I had to leave the building.
Because my son was screaming.
It killed me.
BUT – he was only screaming because they have to strap babies down so they don’t squirm during surgery. He NEVER liked being confined.
Dr. Rosenberg performed a type of laser surgery that is minimally invasive, not painful, and it literally takes two minutes to do.
In a matter of seconds, she was done and my son was OK. I mean, he was a little pissed about what happened but he calmed down quickly.
To my surprise, he was nursing better THE VERY NEXT DAY.
Also, it didn’t hurt anymore. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock and no longer asking myself if surgery was the right choice or not. Plus, he was so pumped with his new mouth.
And best of all…
His gagging and choking stopped IMMEDIATELY. Because his ties were categorized as “level 3,” he apparently couldn’t really use his mouth that well at all. This affected even the way he swallowed his own saliva. My sleepless nights worrying about him choking were finally over. I’m still so relieved about it to this day.
Our entire nursing relationship changed overnight and I still cannot explain the joy and relief I felt because of it.
After this experience, I felt as though it was one of my missions on earth to educate new mothers on lip and tongue ties. I remained a part of that Facebook group mentioned above and coached several mothers through the process pre and post-surgery. I wanted to save all of these mother’s breastfeeding relationships with their babies because I knew how much they were hurting inside. Hearing all of the success stories post-surgery made my heart so incredibly happy.
I do want you to keep in mind that not everyone has this same type of experience post-surgery and surgery doesn’t always solve the issue. With that being said, I highly encourage you to speak with as many experienced moms and dentists/doctors as possible until YOU feel comfortable making the decision you think is best for your child.
More importantly, don’t self-diagnose and convince yourself that your child has a tie.
PLEASE do your research and find a reputable dentist who is experienced in this sort of thing. Make sure that they are able to help your baby with the least invasive surgery as possible. Ask the office if they have a list of testimonials or available contact information so you can hear from past patients about their experience.
Breastfeeding and latching just doesn’t work out for all sorts of other reasons and lip/tongue tie surgery isn’t always the answer for everyone…but it can’t hurt to be informed.
Please pass this information on to someone you know who has questions about lip and tongue ties. Feel free to contact me with any questions at all. I would be happy to share more of my personal experience with you.
My heart goes out to all you mothers who are experiencing the ups and downs and emotions that come with newborns and breastfeeding. Just know and remember that you will get through this and no matter what happens, your baby will love you with their whole heart.
Stay conscious. Stay informed. Stay in love.