In hospital 8 hours after Noah was born approximately midnight I sat in tears in bed as I just could not get Noah to latch. We tried all sorts of positions and holds, but nothing seemed to be working. The only way he would latch was for the midwives to grab a handful of my boob and shove it in his mouth. For someone who is self conscious and private person this was a really uncomfortable thing for me to do. Yes I may have had my bits on show to countless people in the delivery room and in theatre, not to mention the different midwives that came round to check my pad afterwards, but still, I found it uncomfortable. It’s true what they say, when you have a baby all dignity goes out the window.
Anyway, all this breastfeeding stuff was new to me. I didn’t even want to breastfeed until about 2 weeks before we had Noah, but suddenly had a change of heart and went on a nursing friendly shopping spree (Most comfortable nursing bras ever, and best nursing vests ever!). I hadn’t read any books, the only info I had received was the utterly useless 2 day antenatal course provided by the hospital.
Everyone said it would feel natural and babies instinctively know what to do. I watched people at coffee morning the week before I had Noah with their newborns happily nursing, whilst they chatted and drank tea, multitasking like true pros. So why couldn’t I do it? What was I doing wrong?
Come 5 am when I had the use of my legs back post epidural and spinal and the ‘after pains’ had truely kicked in (why does no one warn you about this? I didn’t think I’d ever be able to sit down properly again!), I went out to the nurses station and said “I can’t do this, there is something wrong with him”. I told them I couldn’t get him to open his mouth enough, and when he did latch, he wouldn’t stay latched. Their answer was to bring me a pre made disposable bottle of aptamil. Less than useful when all I wanted was one of them to come and see us and help me figure out what I was doing wrong. We went home later that day, armed with aptamil, and a newborn I had no idea what to do with. It’s true guys, they don’t come with an instruction manual!
The midwife came round the next day, who was only one of my mums friends, I could have cried. Well everything made me cry at that point! She reassured me that we could star breast feeding again, we just needed to feed, feed, feed. So we did. We fed constantly, and expressed as much as we could. I brought an Avent manual breast pump, and a Spectra S1 hospital grade double electric pump.
To cut a very long story short (another blog post) it all came to a head when Noah was 12 weeks old and ended up in hospital with weight loss, not feeding, and crying 24/7. When he was discharge he started a feeding strike. I rang the local infant feeding team, who suggested I wait til Monday and see a specialist health visitor. I think I might actually have said to them “wtf, it’s Friday? What am I supposed to do until Monday?”. They had no suggestion as our case was ‘far too complicated’. Friends had the infant feeding team round to the house, they had sat in bed with them helping their newborn feed in the early hours. Us? Nothing of course of!
(At 12 weeks old he slept in the newborn cot, drowsy from dehydration)
We muddled through, and finally Monday came. We went along to go and see a the health visitor specialising in feeding. She looked at us feeding, gave me some pointers, and looked inside Noah’s mouth. By this point I’d spent 45 minutes in tears asking “why can’t I feed my baby properly?”. She told us that Noah had a tongue tie and was referring us to hospital to have it divided. I dissolved in tears yet again, partly from guilt for not going to her sooner and leaving him to struggle for 12weeks, but partly from relief. I was relieved that it wasn’t just all in my head, or me doing something wrong. Is that bad?
By Friday we were hospital an hour away seeing a lovely specialist midwife practitioner. She spent a long time talking us through what would happen, and reassuring us. She put on some gloves and had a good feel around Noah’s mouth letting him suck on her finger. She could see scaring under his tongue where the tie had already partially divided itself, meaning she thought he was completely tied from birth. But even so, he still only had 25% use of his tongue. I was completely gobsmacked at how bad his tie was, and yet again welled up.
We swaddled Noah, and placed him on the couch. My husband held his head still, and I got myself ready to feed him straight after. There were lots of tears from Noah when the snip was made (I would say on par with the injections), and more blood than I was anticipating. Still to this day I find it barbaric that there is no anaesthetic used. He wouldn’t breast feed, nor would he take a bottle. But we soon got him settled with his dummy and cuddles.
One hour later, sat in a McDonald’s service station, Noah fed for 20 minutes. The longest time he had managed in weeks. It felt normal, and natural. Not only that, it didn’t hurt me! I’d spent 12 weeks in sheer agony! My nipples bled most of the time, and every time I got out the shower and wrapped a towed around me, it felt like glass grating over them. Each time he fed, I had the classic ‘lipstick’ shaped nipples associated with tongue tie, and they would go white.
I cannot put into words how that feed in McDonald’s felt. I could only imagine this is what it should have been like from the start. I was so happy we could finally feed like normal mums and their babies. Not without its obstacles, we went on to achieve a further 5 months of breast feeding, with relative ease, and enjoyment. Something in the first few weeks, amongst the tears and frantic googling, I never thought would be possible.
If you have concerns that your baby has a tongue tie please seek advise from either a specialist health visitor who is trained in tongue ties or search for a tongue tie practitioner here.