Tongue-tie - just in case you don't know - is where the tongue is anchored down in the baby's mouth by some extra skin, or just membrane really, in the early stages. In our case it was like a line of skin, under the tongue. It stretched down the middle, from the back to the front, which tightened the tongue, forcing the tip of 'Baby's' tongue into the classic heart-shape.
Once upon a time (so I have heard), all babies were checked at birth and it was common-place for midwives to snip a tongue-tie there and then. However, these days, some professionals believe it will just grow out by itself, and should be left alone, whilst others believe that it hinders a baby from feeding (whether by breast or bottle) and should be snipped. It's so confusing when medical professionals cannot agree on a given subject, following our experience... well I'll let you decide for yourself...
How it all began...
On the first morning after our beautiful baby was born, she was checked over by a pediatrician, who soon spotted her tongue-tie.
'But it's nothing to worry about he assured us, she's got such a good, strong suck.'
This he demonstrated by sticking the tip of his finger in her mouth. Instantly her sucking reflexes kicked in. We took his word for it.
At that time, and in that area of the country, tongue-ties were just not seen as a problem...
'Oh don't worry, she'll grow out of it.'
...we were told by the private pediatrician we saw four weeks later. But we were worried!
By this time, my boobs were already looking battle-scarred and feeding was getting even more tricky than I had found it in the first place! I was so desperate to breastfeed, but was dreading each and every feed. The pain was so excruciating, I quite often cried aloud, as she latched on. Meanwhile, 'Baby', oblivious to my agony, was feeding quite frequently...
'Feed through the pain,'
...was the frankly quite unhelpful mantra, I came across. But, feeling unable to cope, and on the verge of giving up altogether, I soon began to express off my worst side, and deliver it through a bottle, hoping it would enable the craters in my nipple to heal, as I just couldn't bear it.
|It wasn't meant to be this way...|
I nearly gave up...
Not being able to express more than an ounce or so at a time, I reluctantly began to top up 'Baby's' feeds with a specially prescribed dairy free formula, but this was not what I had expected and was not at all what I had wanted for my little one. All my naive little dreams of motherhood lay fragmented on the ground - induced premature birth, forcep delivery, jaundice that had us readmitted to hospital, milk allergy and now THIS!
At my wits end, and aware that The Hub was beginning to wonder who on earth this deranged woman that he'd married was, I felt there really MUST be a solution to this thing - I was Googling left, right and center!
Tongue-tie came up every time - 'Baby' ticked all the boxes - including the 'clicking' sound as she tried to feed. But how to get help, when all the experts said it wasn't a problem??
Fortunately, the Health Visitor, came to my rescue - she told us that in the next county there was a La Leche League breastfeeding counsellor who could assess us, for potential surgery. Desperate for help, we checked her out. Her room was packed with other unhappy mothers (and fathers) with their babies, all desperate for help
and she was amazing! It didn't take her long to decide we were suitable and we were put down for the 'snip' by a maxillofacial surgeon.
I have to admit, I had my reservations - about my little one being strapped down and... what if the surgeon got it wrong? This was a daft thought, but I was pretty sleep-deprived by this stage - pumping and sterilising was going on day and night, so it was fair to say I was missing a quite a lot of sleep! Bizarrely driven on by my teaching instincts - I didn't want my child to be potentially mocked at school for having a speech impediment - we went ahead.
As it turned out, my doubts were assuaged, the moment we fed following the op (I say 'op', but because she was so young, it was actually over, quite literally, in seconds). We were taken to a side room to try her out, and straight away I could tell her gape was wider and she fed properly latched on - for the first time ever - without being forced on (as one nursing assistant had tried to do).
The other thing I noted, was that her cry had changed - no longer did she wail 'Laa, laa,' she seamlessly changed to the 'Waaa, waa' sound, which you normally hear from babies.
Unfortunately, having got into bad habits, 'Baby's' latch slowly slipped back to her normal position and try as I might, I couldn't get her to feed the way I was 'supposed' to (I can't help feeling that if it had happened at birth, her latch would have been fine). BUT as my boobs healed (with, by now, the help of antibiotics, as I had developed an infection), the pain began to go, I was able to step up feeding, get her back off the bottle and properly breastfeed - the way it should have been all along!
Since then, I have met soooo many other mums in the same boat, including, more recently, my younger sis', who has just been through the exactly same thing. For her, unfortunately it has taken multiple appointments to get properly diagnosed, and the operation, taking place at a later date, was far more traumatic than 'Baby's' had been.
Yesterday, I came across this petition online. If, like me, you would like to prevent others from having to go through the same problems, please sign this petition, and then share it as widely as you can.
And if you're struggling with breastfeeding too, for whatever reason, I would heartily recommend the following:
La Leche League
NHS Choices - Tongue-tie
La Leche League - Tongue-tie