After my breastfeeding journey with Autumn came to an end, I was devastated. I had been so determined, but her being seriously ill had had a serious impact on my mental health. The right thing to do to was to give up so I could take the medication I needed and get better. Breastfeeding this time round was going a lot better, until I began to realise there was a problem. At 8 weeks old, Reuben was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie which was affecting our breastfeeding.
When Reuben was born, we had a beautiful golden hour. He seemed to latch on perfectly and fed well straight away. I really cherished the experience and continued to as the hours, days and weeks unfolded.
When he was around 3 weeks old, I was standing in the kitchen one Friday afternoon when I realised the left side of my breast was a bit tender. It also hurt to lift my arm when I got some chocolate out of the cupboard. While Reuben napped, I had a nice warm bath and did lots of googling. I was a little unsure to begin with whether the pain was from engorgement or mastitis.
Before long, though, I realised that it was the latter. Reuben had had a growth spurt a couple of days before. Now suddenly there was all this milk being produced that he didn’t want! I massaged my poor boob, hoping to remove any milk duct blockages. It had been an hour or so since I’d noticed the pain in the kitchen and now I was beginning to feel quite run down. I didn’t want things to get any worse!
However, by 8pm I had chills. The house was 20 degrees, yet I was laying under a fleece blanket, a duvet and a dressing gown and still shivering. I felt so cold and my teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. Fortunately, they stopped after about 20 minutes. An hour later, I had a slight temperature and by 1am I was vomiting. I felt absolutely dreadful. Not only that, but feeding Reuben was excruciating. With each feed I was grimacing, almost crying with the pain. I used hypnobirthing techniques to get through the pain. It would be so easy to give up, but I didn’t want my breastfeeding journey to end so soon. Not again.
The next morning I felt a bit better and started a course of antibiotics. Mastitis was just as bad as I’d thought it would be and I hoped never to get it again. Yet only a week and a half after finishing my antibiotics, I got it once again! Fortunately, it wasn’t quite as bad that time.
After the first bout of mastitis, I’d had sore nipples. I wondered whether it was linked to it or not. Then when I had it again, I wondered whether it hadn’t had the chance to go away and then had continued because I’d got mastitis again.
Feeding was getting more uncomfortable and I was beginning to feel soreness in between feeds too. I happened to mention it and that as a result I was concerned about our latch to my health visitor. She gave me the number of the breastfeeding clinic so l could make an appointment.
On Monday I headed to my appointment, expecting to get some pointers about positioning and latch. I thought it was going to be an easy fix and we’d be on our way again. The lovely lady there listened to my concerns and I was pleasantly surprised when she told me I was doing everything right. So, what was the problem? She gave Reuben a thorough examination and found that he had a posterior tongue tie and high palate. This had been missed at the hospital when he was born, probably because to the untrained eye his tongue looks quite mobile. I actually remember him sticking it out and a member of staff joking “Oh, he hasn’t got a tongue tie!” and laughing.
Even the specialist on Monday was surprised and didn’t know until she felt the floor of his mouth. Then she showed me how his tongue behaved when he cried. I’ve since read that many midwives and health visitors just aren’t properly trained in tongue ties and it takes a specialist to diagnose them in many cases. Certainly, nobody felt in his mouth and examined it as far as I’m aware!
With one study suggesting that 1 in 10 babies could have a tongue tie, surely this should be something that’s assessed? Although it doesn’t always cause problems, it’s quite common. I’m sure tongue tie has spelled the end of many breastfeeding journeys. I’m in some pain and discomfort but persevering.
As well as causing me physical problems, it has also been very emotionally hard. I think as Reuben has got older, he may be struggling to get the milk he needs. He often coughs and splatters on fast flowing milk and even when he’s not going through a growth spurt he’s very fussy. He will come off and cry, go on for a few seconds again and then repeat the cycle. I’m not sure whether it’s causing him some pain or he’s just frustrated. He feeds very frequently sometimes too.
I’ve recently had days in a row where he would have a tiny unsettled feed, then fall asleep for 10 minutes if that. He would then wake up and repeat. He was getting so overtired and just screaming because he was hungry, but too tired to feed properly or fall asleep. It was all so draining and upsetting.
However, the end of these problems were in sight as I had an appointment for Reuben to get his tongue tie divided. I was somewhat dreading it, despite the fact it should help.
I know it won’t be an instant fix as he’ll have to learn how to use his tongue again. After using it in the womb for so many months and for the last two months with me, that may take some time. However, I’m hopeful that as a result we can continue to breastfeed happily for many (mastitis and pain free) months to come!