Ironically, I am typing this one handed while girlfriend continues her all day binge nursing sesh. Holy growth spurt (I hope).
When Bridget was born, I noticed right away that her upper lip didn’t flange out while nursing, but was tucked under. Will had done the same thing and when he was 8 months old, I realized he had lip and tongue ties. (Here’s a good summary if you’re not familiar.)
I had some cracking and pain with him in the first couple of months of nursing, but thought it was just start-up discomfort. Yeah….no. Some soreness may be normal but toe clenching pain when baby latches isn’t. Will also nursed for hours on end as a baby and I wonder now if he wasn’t compensating for a poor latch. When I realized he had lip and tongue ties, I took him to an ENT in Atlanta. The ENT confirmed the ties but wouldn’t release as an in-office procedure for an 8 month old; he only did it in-office on babies under 4-5 months. He said he would need to do it under general anaethesia for a baby Will’s age. Um, no. I found a dentist who does the procedure in-office with a laser, but she wouldn’t use the laser on a baby under 18 months. Since Will had already figured out how to compensate, I decided to wait and do the laser at 18 months. Then we moved when he was 1 and it never happened.
When I noticed Bridget had the same lip-tucked-under latch, I wanted to get the ties released right away so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the months of pain, and so she wouldn’t be at risk for poor latch, orthodontic problems, or speech delays. The tongue tie causes it to feel like baby is biting down and chewing when she latches. Good times. When we took her into her pediatrician for her first visit at 2 or 3 days old, the pediatrician confirmed the ties and called her favorite ENT to ask her to get us in right away to release them. (I am so, so grateful for our pediatrician. She is all-around amazing, she has a focus on breastfeeding medicine, and her nurse practitioner is an IBCLC. So many doctors don’t take tongue tie seriously, or will tell patients that it will “stretch” over time, etc. But our doctor was insistent that she wanted to call the ENT herself to make sure they squeezed us in right away so that breastfeeding wouldn’t be jeopardized.)
We got into the ENT a couple of days later and she released both the lip and tongue and taught me the exercises I needed to do to help Bridget’s mouth heal correctly. Poor baby girl wailed during the procedure and so. much. blood. but immediately afterwards, she nursed like a champ and the pain was gone. Hallelujah! Bridget passed out on the drive home and slept for two hours. Unfortunately, when she woke up, she was in a lot of pain and raging. I could not get her to latch to save my life. She was screaming, so milk was letting down and she got some just from gumming but not real eating. After about two hours of frustrated screaming and thrashing, she fell back asleep. I felt terrible for her. Her pediatrician confirmed that it was okay to give her a small amount of Tylenol, which seemed to take the edge off the pain, but she still would not latch. That night she slept for 8 hours straight, and my attempts to wake her and get her to nurse were unsuccessful. She just clamped her mouth shut and ignored me. By the morning, I was hysterical because she hadn’t really eaten in 14 hours. That + one week postpartum hormones do not make for a happy cocktail, incidentally. My poor husband was subjected to multiple tearful tirades about how I broke the baby and I should have just left well enough alone and suffered through the latch pain, etc.
I called the pediatrician’s office back and they made me an appointment with Kathy, the lactation consultant. At our session, we tried a bunch of different strategies like bait and switch, “sandwiching,” different holds, etc. but Bridget was not having any of it. Eventually, Kathy suggested we try a nipple shield, promising she would help me get Bridget weaned off of it eventually. As soon as I put the shield on, Bridget latched and chowed down, letting out a huge burp and series of milk drunk hiccups when finished. I was so relieved that she’d had a good meal, I practically skipped out of there.
Happily, Bridget is nursing like a champ and gaining weight right on target. Less happily, she is enamored of the nipple shield and I haven’t had much luck getting her off of it. I try to get her to latch without it at most feedings (if she’s hangry or I’m engorged, it’s a waste of time to even try), and succeed once or twice a day. Both the pediatrician and the lactation consultant are unconcerned, and say she’ll get it, it just takes time, but they’re not the ones whose toddler is perpetually stealing said nipple shield and putting it in the dogs’ water bowl. Hypothetically. Anyway, we’ll just keep trying for now and we’ll see the lactation consultant again at her two month appointment.
In the meantime, I couldn’t be any more infatuated with this girl, and with seeing her big brother love on her. When he tells her, “Don’t cry Bridgie!” or “Night night Bridg, have a good nap!” my heart could explode.