Breastfeeding: How the System Tried to Fail Me.

My breastfeeding journey has been long....long and tiresome. BUT I could not be more grateful for how it all turned out. 

Like most women, I started researching everything I could about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding before the urine was even dry on the pregnancy test!! I found a small group of women online who told me their breastfeeding stories. They were filled success and failure. I learned so much from these personal accounts of breastfeeding. Because of this, I have a desire to be a part of the discussion and share my experience. 

The First Latch

Boy, was I in for a surprise!! My whole pregnancy I dreamed of pushing out my sweet baby, instantly sweeping him up to my chest, and after a quick cuddle, latching him on for the first time and letting him stay there as long as he wanted.

Instead, my unresponsive son was quickly whisked away to a waiting team of NICU nurses. We experienced shoulder dystocia, so he needed some immediate attention. Because of some other birth complications, I was taken to the OR immediately following his birth and was gone for two hours.

Once I returned, we tried to initiate breastfeeding. I was still very weak and unable to hold my son on my own. I am so thankful for the nurse pictured. She held my son to my breast for me so he was able to latch for the first time. I will always remember her!! I am so grateful my desires were honored and she did all she could to accommodate me! 

baton rouge doula breastfeeding

Unfortunately, my son developed jaundice while we were still in the hospital. This is very common in infants who do not feed often enough in the first 12-24 hours after birth.

BREASTFEEDING MYTH: I was advised to only nurse my son every three hours so he could stay under the lamps. It is actually best to nurse a jaundice baby as often as you can get them to latch!

As you can see from my photos, the phototherapy blankets can be used while nursing. While it may make things more difficult, the evidence shows that nursing very frequently is essential to getting rid of jaundice quickly. Luckily I knew this and was able to respectfully communicate my wishes to the nursing staff and was accommodated. 

baton rouge doula jaundice
baton rouge doula jaundice 1

Our Battle With Tongue and Lip Ties

While in the hospital I asked for lactation multiple times. I explained to them the pain I was experiencing during each feed. The pain lasted the entire duration of the feed and was a sharp pain. I was dismissed and told several times it was just because I was a first time mom, and I would eventually get used to it and the pain would stop.

BREASTFEEDING MYTH: Nursing SHOULD NOT hurt! Some sensitivity is normal, but severe pain and nipple damage is not! Mommas, this is where I tell you to follow your gut. If you think something isn't right, keep pressing and advocating for yourself and your baby.

I spent the next THREE MONTHS in pain and had severe nipple damage. I would spend hours researching proper latch. I visited lactation multiple times. I specifically asked about tongue and lip tie multiple times, because all of my signs and symptoms pointed to it. I was familiar with it from research I did when I was pregnant. 

I was told my son was not tied by several providers before finally finding an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) whose son was tied. She was certain my son was tied and referred me to a local ENT. She said a previous IBCLC even wrote in my chart that my son was tied, but she never told me! 

If I would not have been so set on nursing, this ENT would have made me want to quit breastfeeding. She confirmed that my son was tied, but did not believe the ties had any effect on nursing. She told me three months was long enough, she only nursed her daughter for three months, and my son would be fine if I quit nursing. Breastfeeding just doesn't work for some women, she said. She also told me she would revise my sons tongue tie by saying "I will do this to him if you really want me to." Talk about some guilt. She refused to revise my sons lip tie because "he will fall one day and rip it open". That does not help me now. 

I asked for the tongue revision.

The hospital required the procedure to be done under general anesthesia. The whole procedure only took around 30 minutes from the time they took him back until we were able to meet him in recovery.

Unfortunately, the revision done by the ENT was incomplete, that paired with not having his lip revised, meant I did not get any relief. The pain and damage I experienced on my right breast led to me no longer using my right breast to nurse. My son is 2.5 years old and still nursing, and has not touched my right breast since he was three months old!

My milk supply started to go way down, so I had to resort to pumping after each feed to keep my supply up. Tongue and lip tied babies are not able to empty the breast as well as other babies, so this causes your milk supply to gradually decrease over time. 

I continued to seek an answer, and finally was connected with a group of women on Facebook all experiencing the same issues! I was directed to a pediatric dentist in a neighboring state who specialized in tongue and lip tie diagnosis and revision for infants. When my son was five months old we flew to see him and have his revisions done. This is where we learned his initial revision was incomplete.

The dentist was able to perform the revision within 5 minutes. I was able to stay in the room and hold my son while the procedure was done. I was also able to nurse him immediately following the procedure. The change was incredible!!! Almost all of the pain was GONE! Over the next few weeks we worked to help retrain his tongue and teach him how to suck properly. I was able to increase my supply and quit pumping, which was amazing! Pumping is hard work. This image is of my son right before his revision. (The goggles help protect their eyes from the laser used to cut the tissue!) 

Our Happy Ending

After his revision we were able to have what I would refer to as a "normal" breastfeeding relationship. We went on to nurse through his first year, and into his second year. I am so glad I pushed and advocated for me and my baby! 

The only difficulties faced were feet and hands in my face and what some breastfeeding moms refer to as "gymnurstics", or babies who will not be still while nursing and end up in some very interesting postitions! Yes, that is a picture of my son nursing upside down! 

The only thing I continually wished was different was the level of support I received. If I would not have found other women like me online, then I would of been completely alone in all of this. I am so grateful for the advice I received from tons of women who I never met! They are a huge reason I was able to succeed! 

Finding help SHOULD NOT be this hard. Getting support SHOULD NOT be this difficult. Women SHOULD NOT have to weed through 5, 10, or 15 unsupportive providers before they find ONE who is willing to help them. Women should not be in incredible pain for one month, much less FIVE MONTHS before something is finally done. 

Many care providers are still unaware of the evidence. If you find a care provider who is unwilling to diagnose or treat ties, ask around in your community for providers who are supportive. They may be hard to find, and you may have to travel, but it is worth it. Some tongue and lip tie resources 

Kelly Mom - http://kellymom.com/health/baby-health/bfhelp-tonguetie/

Dr. Kotlow - http://www.kiddsteeth.com/dental-topics.php?mode=desktop#breastfeeding_health

Facebook - Tongue Tied Babies Support Group (This is a private group. You will have to request to join and be approved before you are able to see the content in the group)

Baton Rouge Birth Services's Lactation Services - Lactation Services

About the author

Lauren works for Baton Rouge Birth Services and is now a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) through Healthy Children. She has a passion for helping women overcome breastfeeding difficulties, and raising awareness for tongue and lip ties. She hopes to help instill confidence in new breastfeeding mothers, so they are able to advocate for their needs. She believes mother-to-mother support is essential to helping women meet their breastfeeding goals. 

Lauren Standridge

Baton Rouge Birth Services, 18456 Magnolia Estates, Prairieville, LA, 70769, United States