My Breastfeeding Experience - Quinn's Tongue-Tie Snip and After

If you read the first part of my breastfeeding experience series, in which I shared my feeding journey in the first week of so of Quinn's life, and my experiences of breastfeeding in the very early days, then you'll know that Quinn was born with a significant posterior tongue tie.

 
 
This means that the little string of skin which joins the underside of her tongue to the bottom of her mouth, wasn't solely at the very back of her tongue, as on most people, but extended all the way to the very tip. This meant that Quinn couldn't poke her tongue out, or move it freely, which can make breastfeeding very difficult.
 
Thankfully, despite her tongue tie, Quinn was able to feed well, developing her own (rather interesting) technique using her gums and lips. It meant that she continued to gain weight and show all the necessary signs of being a perfectly healthy, thriving little girl, but that I was in absolute agony with cracked and bruised nipples. In those early days my nipples were often bleeding, or almost entirely scabbed over - bad enough, but worse when you have to allow a baby to bite and suck the scabs off every few hours. I found it really tough.
 
Luckily, we managed to get a referral from a lactation consultant in Canterbury, for a procedure to have Quinn's tongue tie "divided" - basically, a doctor uses a pair of small, round ended scissors, to snip the extra skin beneath her tongue, and thus free her tongue from the bottom of her mouth, giving her full use of it.
 
If you're pregnant, or have recently had a baby, I urge you to check your baby's tongue as soon as you can after birth. In the experience of many parents that I've spoken to, tongue ties often go un-diagnosed for a while, during which time breastfeeding Mother's try to continue feeding, constantly trying to improve their baby's latch, and feeding through agonising pain. I noticed within a couple of hours of Quinn's birth that she was tongue tied. I instantly found breastfeeding to be uncomfortable, and when she went to poke out her tongue, I realised that she struggled, and that the tip of her tongue was heart shaped, rather than round - all indicators of a posterior tongue tie. I looked under her tongue and sure enough, there was an extended flap of skin right to the end of the underside of her tongue.
 
It can be difficult to get access to tongue-tie treatment due to lack of funding within the NHS, and some care providers being reluctant to refer babies for the procedure - especially if they're feeding. If you suspect that your baby is tongue tied, get this confirmed by your midwife or health visitor and see what advice they can provide on accessing treatment, if getting a referral that way doesn't seem straight forward, find a lactation consultant via the breastfeeding support groups at your local SureStart Children's Centres, and ask them for advice on accessing treatment.
 
We saw a lactation consultant via SureStart when Quinn was a week old, she confirmed Quinn's tongue tie and noted the damage that her feeding was causing to my nipples, and referred us for the procedure at Benenden Hospital near Tenterden the following week.
 
Benenden Hospital is about a 90 minute drive from us, but we reasoned that the three hour round trip would be worth it, to put an end to my breastfeeding trauma. If you've read my post about struggling with those "darker moments" of newborn life, you'll know that there've already been a fair few tears shed over Quinn's feeding behaviour.
 
On Saturday, we bundled Quinn in to the car and drove over to Benenden Hospital (grabbing a lovely pub lunch first in Tenterden). Benenden is a private hospital - though we had access to free treatment through our referral, but you certainly get a different experience to accessing treatment in an NHS hospital. Without the dire understaffing, lack of funding, and poor working arrangements for doctors and nurses, everyone seemed a lot less stressed an anxious than I'd got used to expecting from hospital visits. In fact, the nurses were instantly joking with us, fussing sincerely over Quinn, and showed us to our own room, with comfy seating and a TV, as well as a patient's kitchen where we could make ourselves tea and coffee and grab biscuits.
 
Quinn was weighed, and had continued to gain weight since her last weigh in, and we didn't have to wait long to be shown in to see Dr. Shah, the paediatrician. Quinn got a full health check, including a look at her hips, eyes, ears etc. Once we'd been talked through the snip procedure again and signed the necessary consent forms, we were taken back to our room, leaving Quinn behind with Dr. Shah and Margaret, one of the nurses. Within five minutes, Margaret came in with a quiet, contented Quinn. She had a little bit of blood in her dribble, but nothing scary, and seemed perfectly relaxed. She fed straight away (which is required, to encourage her to use her tongue, and because breast milk is a brilliant antiseptic).
 
Where I'd been naïve however, was to think that the procedure would offer us some sort of immediate fix (which for some, it does.) Margaret and Boyfriend looked at me expectantly as Quinn latched on, saying things like "how does it feel?" "is that any better?". The truth was no - it was no better, in fact, it was far more painful to have her latch on immediately after her procedure than it had been for some time.
 
Unfortunately, it's continued to get worse and worse. I spent Saturday night in tears with pain, and with frustration as Quinn developed a sudden reluctance to latch, even poorly, far more so than she had previously. I spent most of Sunday in tears, as things continued to get more and more painful, and more and more of a fight to get Quinn to suckle effectively.
 
I know that anyone will tell me how well I've done to persevere with feeding Quinn until this point, and that I've done everything I could to ensure she was able to breastfeed exclusively, but none the less I felt like an utter failure. I'd always been confident that I would breastfeed this baby, I never imagined myself formula feeding, and I just accepted that breastfeeding might take a bit of work, but that it's how I would feed my baby. To face difficulty in feeding, of this severity, wasn't really something I'd factored in. I'd been won over by lactation experts saying that breastfeeding is not painful and that pain in feeding is simply caused by an incorrect latch - which can be adjusted. So I just assumed that if I did experience discomfort, I'd correct the baby's latch and carry on. Turns out, it isn't that simple. For the first few weeks, Quinn couldn't latch properly, even if she wanted to, because of her tongue tie. After the procedure she attempted to feed as normal, but couldn't as she now, suddenly, had a mobile tongue - and so, she because frustrated with her own inability to feed instinctively - making her latch, and behaviour at feeds, a million times worse than before.
 
After what I hoped would be a miracle cure to our feeding problems, and being so relieved to have accessed the referral for Quinn's tongue tie procedure, the pain that I experience during and after feeds is now far more intense than it was prior to the procedure. It now isn't uncommon for Quinn to spend 30-45 minutes fussing at the breast, licking it, putting it between her lips, sucking the tip of the nipple, spitting it out, and most of all - screaming. This has, unsurprisingly, resulted in a plummet in my mood, since Saturday I've found that I'm a hundred times more tearful, stressed and on edge.
 
There are a whole host of emotions that come with feeding complications like these; on the one hand I'm immensely frustrated/jealous/angry that despite being enthusiastic about breastfeeding, it's just not coming naturally to us as it does to so many others. There's a lot of guilt tied up in this as well, I realise now that I've put so much pressure on myself to breastfeed just by assuming that I had no other options, that I'm largely unable to reason with myself.

I feel guilty for Quinn, at the moment I can't particularly enjoy her - my days are dominated by navigating through each feed, and not by smothering her in the love that she deserves. I'll also feel guilty if I introduce infant formula, because I feel as though, as her Mum, I ought to be able to feed her comfortably, happily, and adequately.

I feel guilty for Boyfriend, who's having to put up with my constant tears, I'm behaving like someone with relatively advanced post natal depression at the moment, stemming solely from my feeding problems. My ability to enjoy anything is pretty poor, I'm constantly tearful and beating myself up and doubting my ability as a Mum, or convincing myself that my baby is subject to some form of suffering or another, I have an overall sense of helplessness and hopelessness, and I'm unnecessary emotionally dependent on him - which is sucky for him when he has to be out at work all day. He's also horridly sleep deprived (as am I) because feeding and satisfying Quinn in the early hours of the morning is taking several hours, and usually involves a lot of crying, from me and from Quinn.
 
I feel guilty for Seb too. Today Quinn has just wanted to feed continually, but has also predominantly refused to latch on. Screaming with hunger and frustration, but spitting out either nipple. It was some time before I was able to get him dressed, and even longer before I made him lunch. It's his school holidays, and as well as being unable to enjoy my baby, these feeding issues are making me largely unable to enjoy time with Seb too.
 
Yesterday we decided to get our hands on a breast pump, so that I could give my nipples a break and express some breast milk to feed Quinn from a bottle. The lovely thing is that Boyfriend got to feed his daughter for the first time, which, seeing's as everything makes me cry at the moment - made me cry. Quinn's taken to bottles fine, in fact, possibly too well, as she is downing everything that I express, and then desperately looking for more. It's given me the break I wanted, but has resulted in Quinn being even more unsettled, as she's devouring 4ozs of expressed breast milk in a few short minutes, then acting as though she's not been fed at all, immediately afterwards. I don't have a "stash" of expressed breast milk to dip in to, so... when there's none left, there's none left - cue more screaming.
 
I'm not entirely sure where we go from here. I know that I just want to be happy, and at the moment I am anything but happy. I also want "the best" for my daughter and am struggling to work out what that is. I'd also rather avoid formula for the simple reason that it isn't free.
 
I was hoping to see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counsellor today, but unfortunately there are no local breastfeeding services on a Monday, so we'll be able to see someone tomorrow at our usual breastfeeding support group. We're also going back to see our chiropractor this evening, and whilst there we'll ask about Quinn's neck and jaw, which could be effecting her feeding, as she's been using all of the wrong muscles up until now.
 
One thing I can be grateful for is my superb support network. Boyfriend has been incredible, I know that it's been really difficult for him to see me so unhappy and in such pain, and also to be struggling so much with something that I want to do. My friends have rallied to help and offer their support too, some of my immediate friends have been on hand to help keep Seb busy when I've been unable to, whilst some friends I've not had much contact with in a while, have got in touch to offer advice on positioning or accessing more professional help - I couldn't ask for lovelier people trying their best to make things easier - so if you're one of them, thank you so much.
 
 
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3 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry your breastfeeding journey isn't going the way you hoped it would. I'm glad you got the tongue tie sorted and I hope getting more help will sort things out for you. I found breastfeeding to be so painful even though I was told his latch was perfect. Don't beat yourself up if you have to use formula, as long as she's fed that's best xx

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  2. Oh I am so sorry to read you are having such a tough time and that the tongue tie snip didn't help in the way you hoped it would. It sounds so tough so huge hugs. I struggled with feeding both of mine so I understand how you feel. With Monkey I was able to perseverance but with LM gave in to formula at 7 weeks. I hated it but I just couldn't do it anymore and have suffered PND with her too as it has been so hard. Anyway just want to say you are not alone and I am so glad you have such a great support network. Hugs and thanks for linking with #MaternityMondays

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  3. i know i only lasted 5 days but i felt the EXACT same, i was worried id get PND as i was crying all the time, then crying when i looked at him for not enjoying something i should, i felt guilty for hating every second of it. i did have a good latch sometimes but then he'd re-adjust and i would scream, and my husband felt helpless. i felt awful to give him formula but he guzzled it down and slept peacefully and now i sit smiling feeding him each time. i thought the midwife and health visitor would look down on me but both said i did well and as long as he is fed and from that moment my guilt went away. don't pressure yourself xxx

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