Each month we like to feature a real mom and her breastfeeding journey. This month, we're featuring Stacy and her breastfeeding journey with a tongue & lip tie. Thank you for sharing with us Stacy!
I knew something was not right with our latch probably from the first day I had my daughter, Mareva, on June 15, 2013. However, the Lactation Consultant (LC) at Clark took a look and said everything was okay, my severe pain was normal, and things were just tough in the beginning. I knew severe pain was not normal, but how was a first time mom supposed to argue with a specialist in the subject? The pain gradually got better over the first three months, but Mareva ate continuously (for 3-4 hours at a time during the nights) and never seemed satisfied. She was diagnosed with thrush, and once treated, we thought that would fix everything.
Things were better for a month, and then Mareva started getting horrible gas pains in the evenings. Mareva would nurse over an hour, sleep for 30 minutes, wake up screaming in pain, need to be walked, pass gas after three hours, and then want to nurse again. The pediatrician was not happy with her weight gain at five months. He gave horrible advice to pump and bottle feed for two days to see how much milk Mareva was getting. He suggested supplementing formula after every feeding. Then he proceeded to tell me lots of women cannot breastfeed, including his own wife, and I shouldn’t feel ashamed. I knew he was full of it, and I left knowing I was going to find an LC and another doctor.
I came across Lisa Mascio-Thompson, one of the LLL leaders in Southern IN. She talked to me on a Sunday(!) and did a transfer weigh-in at Clark. Mareva was transferring milk just fine. I still wasn’t convinced our latch was correct, but Lisa took a look and said it was fine. She wasn’t worried since Mareva could transfer milk. In the middle of all this, I had also started getting a plugged duct at least once a week. This went on until Mareva was seven months old. I tried elimination diets to help the horrible gas. We put Mareva on acid reflux medicine for a month with little help. Finally things just seemed to gradually improve over time.
At thirteen months, Mareva was nursing only throughout the night. But gas pains still kept waking her constantly. She would nurse before bed, wake up an hour later with horrible pains, nurse for comfort, and fall back asleep only to wake up an hour later with pains. I was determined this time, to find out what was causing all Mareva’s problems. Someone a year prior had mentioned tongue and lip ties to me. I started researching them intently. Ties explained not only our current difficulties, but all the problems we had from the beginning. I tried checking her lip myself. I could not pull up on her upper lip at all. I asked around for pediatric dentists that could help and was given the name of someone local.
While waiting for that appointment, further research had me convinced Mareva had at least a lip tie. And lip ties are about 95% likely to have a corresponding tongue tie (but not vice versa). Joining a tongue and lip tie group on Facebook also convinced me that I needed to be seeing a preferred provider and not just any doctor. After the local dentist proved inept with ties, I called Dr. Matthew Rasche in Bloomington (the closest preferred provider). We took Mareva to Dr. Matt (as he likes to be called), on August 28, 2014, when she was fourteen and a half months old. He did an evaluation and said she definitely had an upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. He revised both ties in about ten minutes with a laser. The procedure was horrible to watch, and the stretches afterwards were just as bad. With that said, I would do it all over again except much earlier in Mareva’s life.
Mareva stopped having gas pains about two days after the surgery. She was suddenly able to eat breads, meats, and other dry foods. Instead of not liking the food as we suspected, she just couldn’t eat it because she couldn’t use her tongue to work the food to the back of her mouth. She stopped choking when drinking water, too. Her whole demeanor changed to that of a happier child. Her shallow latch never really improved; but, since she was so old, I did not try very hard to make her adjust it. Mareva self-weaned this past January, at 19 months old. I feel we never had a great breastfeeding relationship, which makes me sad. I was expecting and wanting a beautiful nursing relationship with my daughter and got one full of pain and hardships due to something that could have been fixed immediately upon birth.
To help other moms, I make sure everyone at La Leche League meetings are aware of tongue and lip ties. No, leaders cannot make the diagnosis, but they can point mothers to the care of someone knowledgeable on the topic. I have helped several mothers find Dr. Matt, and have provided encouragement to them. On the Facebook tie site, one mother told me her doctor said that ties were taken out of medical books in the 1950s when formula feeding became the “new, scientific way to feed your baby”. This is partly why pediatricians do not know to look for the problem when there are breastfeeding concerns. I have also read where it was very common in earlier centuries for midwives to automatically use nail trimmers to cut babies’ ties immediately after birth. This is not a new problem, just one everyone has forgotten. I hope to change that because every mother deserves the most amazing breastfeeding experience.
For more resources about lip & tongue ties, please visit www.kellymom.com.