What I Wish I’d Known About Breastfeeding

What I Wish I'd Known About BreastfeedingThe Backstory
My daughter, Madeline, was a very poor nurser as an infant. From birth to two and half months old, she would breastfeed, clicking her tongue the whole time, for about three minutes (through my heavy let down) and then pull off screaming (seemingly in agony) and shaking her head. You could not get her to latch back on. My nipples were cracked, constantly sore and nursing was never pleasurable. It was always stressful. “It’s not supposed to be like this,” I’d say to my husband through tears. “Some babies fall asleep nursing!”

We were convinced there was something wrong — that I wasn’t producing enough, that she was starving, that there was a food allergy. I tried fenugreek supplements (which she ended up being allergic to), tried nursing more frequently, tried elimination diets — none had any effect on her nursing habits. Many moms in my life told me that this was so common — that a lot of babies just cried for no reason. Maybe she even had colic.

One night, in a moment of desperation after another failed attempt at nursing, we gave her a bottle of formula (one of the ones they send you home with from the hospital). The instant difference in her demeanor was night and day. Our baby was finally content. From that night on, I became a pumper. I ended up exclusively pumping for her between two and a half and four months old, before my supply dwindled and I finally switched her to just formula. She was an infinitely happier and chunkier baby girl (and we were happier, too!), but my goal of primarily breastfeeding my daughter as long as possible was a thing of the past.

The Turning Point
After Madeline’s first birthday, I happened upon an article on Facebook about upper lip ties. Recognizing all the classic symptoms instantly, I ran to check her. Since that day, I have been convinced that an upper lip tie was the reason for our breastfeeding issues. And at age two, when I started itching to have her evaluated for speech (she was struggling with articulation problems), I had a nagging suspicion that this suspected upper lip tie was to blame.

Frenectomy - Madeline Upper Lip Tie

Madeline’s Upper Lip Tie, Age 2.5. (Please excuse the mustard on her face!)

History Repeated Itself
Fast forward to the birth of my son, Benjamin. Armed with the research I’d done on upper lip ties and tongue ties (here‘s a good place to start…and here…and here), which I now knew go hand in hand, I had a plan for my breastfeeding relationship with my newborn — I wasn’t going to leave the hospital without having him evaluated for ties. The day after his birth, the on-call pediatrician checked him out and said all looked good to her. I disagreed, but my husband insisted that the doctor knew what she was talking about. Ready to go home, I hesitantly relented.

By one month old, nursing Benjamin still wasn’t “coming naturally,” nor was it “pain free.” So I made an appointment with a lactation consultant at the on-post hospital who thought his latch looked good, but noted he was gumming my nipple while nursing. While we nursed in front of her, he actually consumed three ounces from one breast in less than ten minutes (the LC remarked that I was producing enough for triplets at that point). She ended up suggesting some different holds to accommodate him better aka we had to nurse with him sitting up straight on my knee. Not ideal. Not cozy and comfortable for either of us.

By two months old, we had suffered two cases of thrush and I had had one agonizing case of mastitis. Benjamin was an extremely gassy baby who audibly swallowed air while nursing, sometimes clicked, bit down on my nipples (I suspect to slow my heavy let down), pulled off every thirty seconds to either gasp for air, shake his head or just re-latch more shallowly (which I constantly tried to adjust) and who spit up two to three times after every feed. I used to describe his nursing experience as him being waterboarded, but he did seem much more patient with the experience than Madeline was. He very rarely fell asleep nursing, often sitting up whining/crying until I could calm him down enough to get burps out. He would only poop once every day or two (mucusy- even when I cut dairy from diet for a month) and usually seemed to be in pain until he was able to go. My nipples were red/purple and super sensitive.

At his two month check up, I told the nurse about his issues and, after bearing witness to his “pain cry,” she recommended an upper GI. The result was that his anatomy was normal, but he showed evidence of acid reflux. He went on a daily dose of Prevacid — a total nightmare each day since the taste was so bad. Our insurance even stopped covering the liquid compound, which had offered him much gastro-relief. But the meltaway tabs that we substituted with proved much easier for him to tolerate and cheaper, as well.

At almost three months old, Benjamin started to refuse to nurse. He might nurse for one to two minutes on each side but seemed to get frustrated easily and was constantly pulling off, kicking and fussing. After trying cluster feeding (to no avail), I eventually caved and supplemented with formula for the first time. Again my baby was somewhat relieved and happy. Again I was torn between wanting to breastfeed and wanting a happy and healthy baby — the two did not seem to go hand in hand for me. Again I suspected that an upper lip and tongue tie was part of the problem.

Frenectomy - Benjamin Upper Lip Tie

Benjamin’s Thick Upper Frenum

Frenectomy - Benjamin Upper Lip  and Cupped Tongue

Benjamin’s Upper Frenum and Cupped Tongue While Crying

Frenectomy - Benjamin Tongue Tie

Benjamin’s Lingual Frenum

The Plan
By this time, Andrew was about to deploy to Iraq, and I was nearing my wits’ end. Benjamin had been a challenging baby up to this point, and now my husband was about to leave. I’d be parenting an infant and a two year old alone. Panic was rapidly setting in.

While I had gotten Benjamin evaluated for a tongue and lip tie at birth and gotten feedback that he looked normal (HA!), I never had Madeline evaluated. On my Deployment To Do List — get both of my children formally evaluated by a pediatric dentist for lip and tongue ties.

Note: Upper lip and tongue ties may not be the cause of painful/dysfunctional breastfeeding for every baby, but if your story sounds anything like ours I strongly encourage you to look into it! Please consult with your local IBCLC, pediatric dentist or pediatrician as a starting point. If you would like to know more about our experience with upper lip and tongue ties or the frenectomy procedure, please check out part two of our story here!

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

At 41 weeks — one week late,
on November 8, 2014,
our sweet son,
Benjamin Andrew,
was born at 9:51 in the morning.
He weighed 8 lbs 7 oz and measured 21.5 in.
He has taken our hearts and taught us that…
good things come to those who wait.
Benjamin Andrew

The Best Big Sister Gift Ever!

The Best Big Sister Gift EverWhen our new baby is born, he has plans to present Madeline with a generous big sibling gift (purchased in advance by yours truly), to say “thanks for letting me be born into your limelight!” The theme of his gift to her is Too Busy To Be Jealous with a touch of Just For Funzies thrown in. It’s very thoughtful of him, if you ask me — showering his older sister with personalized trinkets to make her feel happy and loved in a time when all eyes will be on him.

Madeline’s Big Sister Gift:

  • Big Sister Shirt — A long sleeved tee, in her favorite color (purple) proclaiming Madeline the “best sister ever.” This will make for some super sweet photo opps. (Nana picked this out for Maddie-girl.)
  • Kid Made Modern Wooden Bead and Fuzzy Sticks Kit — I found this kit at Target (no longer available) in the arts and crafts aisle. I picture Madeline sitting down with her grandparents for some sure-to-be-coveted one-on-one time and creating some beautiful jewelry!
  • Frozen Color Wonder Pad — I picked up a mini Color Wonder pad (similar here) in the Dollar Spot at Target to add to the big sib gift. A mess-free, one-player pass-time? Yes, please.
  • Melissa and Doug Happy Handle Stamp Set — Weekly trips to story time at the library have treated us to not only songs, books and bubbles, but to a weekly hand stamp. This is Madeline’s favorite part. Well, can’t have too much of a good thing, I say. So she’ll be bringing home a whole stamper kit to cover our walls hands in.
  • Woodland Animal Sticker Book — Much like hand stamps, you can’t go wrong with stickers in our house. Found this in the Dollar Spot at Target.
  • You & Me Doll Playard — Little Mommy Madeline’s baby dolls have been taking turns in the baby’s swing and bouncy seat lately. So I figured they needed a nice place to nap when her brother is occupying their spot. This (purple) doll pack-n-play will be perfect for them. Plus, can you just imagine Granddad trying to set up the pint-sized version of the real thing for her!? I’m hoping for video…
  • Dress Up Shoes — A big sister should feel like a big girl and what big girl doesn’t like to wear heels? I purchased Madeline’s first plastic pair in the Dollar Spot at Target (similar here). High fashion over here, I’ll tell you what…

Did your new baby come bearing big sib gifts? What was the biggest hit with your older kiddos?