After five and a half months of believing without a doubt that I have low milk supply — no, make that almost three years, seeing as I had the same problems with my first beautiful boy — a specialised paediatric dentist finally confirmed that he has a very significant posterior tongue tie and lip tie.
5.5 months and finally with a free tongue.
Stage 1 of the swaddling, and not impressed.
Applying the anaesthetic cream. Still not impressed.
After years of believing that my body is flawed, after years of hating my breasts and their total futility, of struggling to come to terms with the fact that I am unable to reconcile with that absolute primal need of sustaining my baby on my milk alone, of trusting those experts that confirmed the problem was mine, it wasn’t.
After spending the first 34 weeks of my second pregnancy in a constant state of anxiety at the thought of having to battle through those first three months again somehow, God only knows how, of noticing how my breasts never changed in pregnancy or postnatally, of heavy-heartedly tossing out beautiful hand-made breast pads that I’d had made when first pregnant, of having counselling sessions over lactation issues to allow me to at least bring this next baby to my breast at least once… it wasn’t me.
After searching and searching and searching for a miracle cure, spending thousands of francs on foods, drinks, supplements, drugs and contraptions that gave hope of an increased milk supply, hunting high and low for anybody on this earth that could truly understand what this feels like, I had it wrong.
My last blog post was met with a flurry of comments that suggested that my boy indeed does have a tongue tie, and disbelief that none of the medical professionals I had sought advice from thus far had confirmed it, even when I specifically questioned them about it. A few friends here in Australia gave me the name of a paediatric dentist who was very experienced with tongue and lip ties, but when I called regarding a consult, they wouldn’t be able to fit us in before we flew back to Switzerland. That was disappointing, but not surprising, and I once again had to reconcile with the fact that I wasn’t going to get anyreal answers or any real help. They were very understanding of our situation, though, and we were put on a waiting list.
On Wednesday, somebody cancelled. In we went. My boy was an absolute gem of a smiler, but I was feeling so conflicted. I wasn’t even sure what I would want to do if they found a tongue tie, all I knew was that I wanted answers. I mean, he has just recently started solids once a day, so maybe it wasn’t even necessary. The 24 hours beforehand, strangely enough, he had not had any supplementation whatsoever, though he also cut a tooth, so was perhaps not wanting as much… But I was thinking thinking thinking. Maybe I was just being selfish now, wanting to breastfeed him when it perhaps wasn’t so vital for him anymore, and did I really want him to have a surgical procedure and to endure pain in order for us to do that? I just needed to know, then I could mull it over and make my decisions later.
The dentist confirmed it, and for the first time I could clearly see it. A posterior tongue tie – a very thin membrane under his tongue that was keeping it held low to the floor of the mouth. He then checked the top lip and found that it was unable to fully flange upwards. It apparently should be able to either touch or almost touch the nose when you turn it upwards, but again his was tied down my a tendon. It was able to flange a little, but not significantly.
He discussed options: If this was a five week old baby, he said, he wouldn’t hesitate; It would make an enormous difference to feeding. But now, my little one has learnt how to feed in his own way, and it would perhaps not change anything. And he wouldn’t want to fix the lip tie or fully cut the tongue tie before we were about to leave, as there was a chance of a post-op bleed when we were travelling, and he’d be unable to provide any check-ups, which both he and I were uncomfortable with. But I had my answers. He discussed the fact that this procedure is purely a ‘first world procedure’, as he called it, as ‘we’ know that if nothing is done, that baby would continue to thrive and grow up happy and healthy. He said that at this point, right at that consult, he could use a laser to remove the small membrane holding the tongue down – a painless, one minute long procedure – but whether that would make a significant difference or not is unknown. He said he would really only do it in cases where the mother was incredibly passionate about breastfeeding…
I didn’t really have to convince him. I told him that yes, that indeed is me. I am passionate about it. And sure, let’s try it.
First feed post-procedure.
The worst part, really, was not the procedure itself. In fact, it was fascinating the way that the laser worked so smoothly and quickly, and it was incredibly to watch that membrane just vanish and his tongue raise higher and higher right there in front of my eyes. He just didn’t enjoy being swaddled so tightly and having his head being held still, but it was obvious that the anaesthetic cream they applied had worked. He had no pain during it, and appeared entirely unaffected by it afterwards – in fact, the moment that I picked him up, he stopped crying and smiled at the dentist.
This was three days ago.
Since then, his feeding doesn’t feel that different on the whole, but there have been two feeds that absolutely were different. His latch was much deeper and he seemed so much more effective and focused, and I felt as if thatwas what a proper feed was like.
I haven’t used the SNS for three days. I am now on day four of being an Exclusive Breastfeeder.
I still don’t know how I feel.
I am not angry, which surprises me. I am sad. I’m not sad for my littlest boy, as the SNS has allowed us to have a breastfeeding relationship, and for him to get a lot of my milk anyhow. But I am very sad that there is a very high chance that this is what caused all the problems with my first, and that all that trauma was unnecessary. Once again, I find myself grieving that lost time with my first boy.
This is me, looking like I’m doing ok. I’m not too sure.