Monday, November 21, 2011

Myth vs Reality: Breastfeeding (Part 2)

I'm going to have to live with this pain the entire time I breastfeed. - The first month of breastfeeding was agony for me. At the hospital, I told them it was hurting, but the nurses said his latch looked great. We didn't get to see a lactation consultant (LC) until we were about to leave, and E was too sleepy to nurse for her. She poked around in his mouth a little and said he was rolling his tongue, and suggested I mess with his tongue before latching him on. I could never get that to work - it always resulted in him crying, which undid anything I'd done before he got latched on.

A couple of weeks later, things were only worse. Sometime I would hit my head against the wall behind me to distract me from the pain as he latched on. My nipples were ultra-sensitive all the time from the damage. I called the LC hotline; they suggested some positioning changes. With those changes, if I did everything exactly perfect (which rarely happens with a wiggling, hungry baby), the pain would at least be less maybe half the time. I started to give up hope and resigned myself to a life of pain. I'd initially planned to breastfeed a minimum of a year - now the thought of a year of this made me cry, and I hoped I could tough it out to six months.

I finally made an appointment to see another LC in person. She saw both what looked to her like a dairy intolerance (oh, did I mention that he was also screaming his way through these feedings?), and a slight posterior tongue tie. However, she cautioned that she didn't really thing the tie was severe enough to cause my problems, and suggested more positioning changes rather than getting it clipped. If I did want it clipped, she said the only person they knew who would do it was a dentist over an hour away, and my insurance likely wouldn't cover him.

Her positioning recommendations, if done absolutely perfectly, now resulted in almost no pain about half the time. If I did it perfectly a quarter on the time (that's being generous), I was now spending only 87% of our feedings in agony. Woohoo! Luckily, I had the support of a BF community online, and mothers there encouraged me to pursue the tongue tie angle.

Also luckily, E had his one month checkup later that week. The doctor confirmed the dairy intolerance. I asked her about the tongue tie, and if she knew anyone who clips posterior ties. New to the practice and area, she left the room to ask around - and came back with the news that the ENTs upstairs would clip a posterior tie, and we could get in right after this appointment!

Upstairs, the ENT was on the same page as the LC - there was a slight tie, but he wasn't sure it was bad enough to bother clipping. After all the encouragement I'd received online, I knew I didn't want to go through another month of pain just to wind up back in this office. We told him to do it. A minute of pain for E, then nursing calmed him down and he never seemed to notice again. No bleeding, nothing.

Within two days the pain was gone, aside from a little residual sensitivity due to damage already done that was healing. We got that slight, probably-not-the-problem posterior tongue tie clipped 4.5 months ago, and nursing has been a pain-free breeze ever since. I called the LC back to tell her that it had, indeed, worked, and gave her the ENT's info so that she wouldn't have to refer patients an hour away anymore.

Breastfeeding should not hurt like that. A tiny bit of latch pain now and then, some rawness when they're comfort nursing and their latch starts to slide, that's normal. Pain that makes you want to quit nursing is not. You don't have to deal with that, and if one professional's advice doesn't fix it, keep asking more professionals until it's gone. And if anyone suggests there might possibly be a tongue or lip tie, no matter how slight, my advice is to clip it every time. It's minimal pain for the baby, and while it's not guaranteed to be the problem, it could save you a lot of pain and be the difference between giving up and nursing as long as you plan to.

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