With my first child, I really didn’t know what to expect. But I had a plan. I had a birth plan, a maternity leave plan, and a breastfeeding plan. And let’s just say I would have gotten fired if my job was to come up with plans.
Breastfeeding was always part of my plan. But I had NO clue what to expect. I will never forget that lactation nurse squeezing my boob like a cow’s udder and talking about “meat.” What the heck was going on?! I was so doped up on morphine (birth plan failed and had to have a C-section after laboring all day) that I am not sure I even cared about some random lady molesting me. And let’s be honest—I wanted to feed my baby! I thought we were doing great in the hospital. But then, right before we went home, they told me I’d need some formula because he wasn’t gaining weight and I must not be giving him enough milk. But I was determined.
To let you in on my magnificent plan, you should know that I didn’t even have a breast pump—or even know what one looked like. (Sigh…) I was in so much pain every time the baby latched on. But, I thought that was normal because after all, “breastfeeding can be painful.” That’s what everyone always said. So I continued. Then my nipples became flat and a purple line formed across the tips. But I didn’t know that wasn’t normal. So I kept on. Then, one night, my sweet husband stood in the doorway of the baby’s room and watched as my whole body cinched up with pain. He knew something wasn’t right and went out and bought me a breast pump. I think we’d googled it or something. He came home with a handheld, single manual pump. (Oh if I only would have really done my research…) So, I used it. It hurt too, but not as bad as that baby! Interestingly enough, my milk was pink. Hmm…that’s weird. Wait. Gross. Yeah—so… bloody milk is pink. That was when I knew my breastfeeding plan failed. For the record, I continued to pump for about 4 more weeks and had to go back to work at 6 weeks and never even thought about pumping at work. (Another Sigh…)
All Tied Up
By the time he was 2 months old, my baby was making a big mess every time he drank from the bottle. We went through 3 or 4 different kinds of bottles and finally just had to wrap a burp cloth around the bottle to catch all the stuff that leaked out around his mouth. Ironically, I went to visit a friend who had just had a baby right around that time. I was holding him in my lap when he gave me a giant, open-mouthed yawn. I watched as his little tongue curled up and around in his mouth and something hit me. My baby’s tongue didn’t do that. (So either this kid was weird or mine was!) I spent the next few days rooting around in my baby’s mouth and discovered that the tip of his tongue was not going out past his teeth. His frenulum (the little connector thing under his tongue) was attached just under the tip of his tongue and even started to pull a line in the tip of his tongue like a snake. Yikes! What was going on?
Googling things can sometimes just scare you to death. But I learned A LOT from the internet that week. My baby was “tongue-tied” and back in the old days, a midwife would “keep a long fingernail to snip the frenulum to aid in breastfeeding.” I don’t remember the source for that, but I’m thinking it was from the American Breastfeeding Association. Everything started to make sense at this point. (Flat nipples, purple line, bloody milk….there was a reason!)
The next few weeks were tough. Apparently, pediatricians do not deal with this type of thing—the tongue is not their “domain.” And finding a dentist who could help us out was a nightmare. I went to one guy who told me to wait until he was 4 and then we’d put him under and split it down the middle and stitch it back up. WHAT?! So, a professional was telling me to a) wait until he develops a speech impediment because he can’t move his tongue around in his mouth, and then b) give him general anesthesia for a tongue procedure that midwives used to do with a fingernail? Something just didn’t add up. I did more research and learned that at 3 months, a simple cauterization would suffice—no sedation needed. I called this dentist back and actually talked to him on the phone about it.
Me: “I read online that you can just cauterize it or just snip it with scissors and then immediately give him a pacifier. I’d rather do that than wait until he’s 4 and put him through a surgery.”
Him: (laughing) “You believe everything you read on the internet? Sure, (laughing more) we can do it that way, but you’d have to dress him in old clothes because he would have blood pouring out everywhere. And we’d have to strap him down to the table so he wouldn’t move. (There was a lot more rambling about how terrible this idea was…) I mean, yeah, we could do that if you wanted but I’d never do that to my own child.”
I am sure you are thinking that no doctor would ever say that. I couldn’t believe it either. I was infuriated. And furthermore, not only was this extremely unprofessional, but it was belittling and just a flat out lie. And I knew I’d never take my child back to that jack-wagon. So I called all kinds of people. I finally talked to a pediatric dental place (Alabama Pediatric Dental Associates) where one of the dentists did a “frenectomy” during his rounds in dental school. (The clouds opened up and the angels were singing!) I took him in the very next day and sweet Dr. Lackey checked him out and performed the procedure right then. It was about 5 minutes and as soon as it was over, I gave him a pacifier and he stopped crying and fell asleep! If I had only known about ANY of this sooner—things would have been so much easier for us.
Here we go again…
With baby #2, I had a better plan. It still failed, but at least it was better. (One more sigh…) After coming home and realizing that this baby had the same tongue problem, I was able to get him in to the same dentist when he was only 5 days old. But my problem was that I still didn’t know enough about breastfeeding. I had been bottle feeding because this 9 pound, 5 ounce boy was always STARVING and I really just didn’t know what else to do. So, after his little easy procedure (with only scissors this time because he was still small enough that nothing even needed cauterization), I was determined to breastfeed! But then I also had a one year old at my ankles, another C-section incision, and this always-starving-never-satisfied baby. So naturally, I tried to get him to latch at the worst possible time—when it was already time for his bottle….and when my 1 year old needed a nap. It wasn’t happening. And I gave up. I’m still sad that I didn’t try again. But quite frankly, I was just so rundown and couldn’t see anything positive about putting myself through it all again.
3rd Time’s a Charm, Right?
With the 3rd one, I was determined. This was it. Come hell or high water, I was breastfeeding! I reunited with a sweet friend from high school who was a La Leche League person, made her dentist appointment before she was even born, and even bought a fancy pump. Game on. BUT THEN—once again, my plan blew up in my face. Sweet Dr. Lackey wasn’t in that day and we saw another guy who told me, “Honey, I don’t think the problem is her tongue.” WHY did I not argue with him? (I mean, I know it was because I was volatile from all those crazy post-birth hormones and fighting back tears because I just heard him say, “Honey YOU are the problem.”) I just shrunk. Tears ran down my face as we walked out and I was defeated. I bought nipple shields and that worked sometimes. I pumped like a mad-woman so she’d at least get my milk for as long as possible.
Then one day, when she was 7 weeks old, I gave it one last shot. She was getting ready to take a nap and it was in between feedings so she wasn’t starving. Well, guess what! It worked. Miracles do happen! THIS is what everyone was talking about. It didn’t hurt—my toes weren’t curling from pain. It was beautiful. I have since determined that her tongue was, in fact, slightly tongue tied and that as she grew, so did her frenulum. (I had read about that happening on the internet…) I was able to nurse her after work and on the weekends and pumped at work until she was 5 months old. Then I had to go on a business trip and it was hard for me to pump enough to keep up with her by then anyway. I had about a month’s worth stored up in the freezer, so I’m calling baby #3 a breastfeeding success!
What I Learned
- We have to talk about this stuff, ladies. It helps to know what others have been through so that we can come together and help each other out. Our society whispers about breastfeeding like it’s the plague, but yet, it’s the very thing God designed us to do. Other cultures learn about it as young girls and continue to watch their family members and friends nurse their children so that they are familiar with it and know what to do when it’s their turn. Talk to your friends about boobs! You’ll be glad you did.
- Don’t settle if you have a bad feeling about a doctor. Keep pressing on until you get the answer you know in your heart is right. Momma’s instinct is for real, people!
- Have a plan. But don’t let your ship sink if that plan fails. Don’t beat yourself up about failed plans. That’s just a waste of time. Create a new plan. And… just keep on keeping on. You’re doing great, Momma!
Jamie Miller lives in Huntsville, AL with her husband, Garrett, and their three wild and crazy kiddos. She works full time and struggles with keeping the house clean, the clothes washed, the kids healthy, and keeping the mommy guilt in check. But she wouldn’t trade it for the world!
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