When Liska from New Mum Online mentioned that her son Aaron, like my daughter, had a tongue-tie that was cut late enough to cause long-term milk supply problems, I had to hear her story.
I was particularly intrigued that she managed to breastfeed him for thirteen months despite their profound difficulties. When I read this post I could have cried for her, especially because of the horrific hospital experience.
I found her perseverance so inspiring that I asked her to share her breastfeeding journey with us.
I have never written my breast-feeding story, and so many times I have meant to. When I found out Aaron had a tongue-tie I Googled and Googled and found hardly anything, so I swore I would write a thorough account of my story to help other mums. Yet I never did. Even now I wouldnʼt have got round to it but Adele asked me to do a guest post so here I am.
As this will be a long post I will have to do sub-headings for the speed readers.
So my story begins with a c-section, not the water birth I had been expecting. It meant that my hubby was first to hold Aaron and skin to skin waited for the “recovery room”.
The only antenatal class I missed was the one on breastfeeding as I was busy at work – boy did I live to regret that. You think itʼs the most natural thing in the world and for some women it is…not for all…
So I had Aaron at 21:24 on a Tuesday night (over 17 months ago) but we then spent quite some time in the recovery room so it was very very late by the time I got up to the ward.
Iʼd had 18 hours of active labour before my c-section so I had laboured through Monday night and all day Tuesday. So sleep was in minus. I hadnʼt slept since Sunday night…
So there I am in the ward, husband gone, catheter attached, numb from the bosom down, unable to reach any of the things in the bag near my bed, only had one serving of tea and toast in the whole ordeal, and the midwife comes to “establish breastfeeding”.
She tries to put Aaron on my tummy which is painful due to the c-section. She tries all different positions. She gets stressed, I get stressed, and at some point I say, “I need to
sleep. I just gave birth” but she is determined she will get him to latch on.
Each time he canʼt he cries hysterically. Each time we managed it, it wasnʼt for long. But
he slept all night that night.
She kept grabbing my breast and squeezing it to see if there was anything there – my milk didnʼt actually “come through” properly till the Thursday, which I think can be common with c-sections.
I was in hospital from Tuesday to Saturday, and on and off we did have a few successful breastfeeding sessions but he never got enough from me and cried a lot.
So we had to top up a lot with formula which was very stressful as the hospital did not want him to get used to bottles so insisted on doing “cup feeding” which they would not allow the mother to do due to the possibility of choking.
Each time he was hungry and couldnʼt get anything from me, I would have to hunt down a member of staff and then wait for them to have time to do it, all when I was meant to be sleeping. By the Friday I had had no sleep and spent the whole day crying so they moved me to a side room (private room) so that I could get
I didnʼt want my milk supply to suffer during this time, so I was using a hospital standard machine to express, and I expressed all my colostrum, which they gave Aaron with a syringe.
Anyway due to ongoing breast-feeding problems in hospital one of the midwives on duty looked in Aaronʼs mouth and said: “I think he has a tongue tie.” A pediatrician on her rounds – around Thursday – also thought he had a tongue-tie, but due to the fact we had some successful breastfeeding sessions she said it might not need treating.
I was discharged from hospital on Saturday and as I had had a “couple of successful” sessions of breast feeding that day, they were happy to release me. I was discharged by someone flexible enough to appreciate that I would need to combination feed – everyone else I met wanted me to establish bottle OR breast before I left the hospital.
But this is too rigid if (1) you have a large baby who is hungry and your milk hasnʼt quite come through
(2) he has a tongue-tie and (3) you are bullied into bottle. You may (like me) fall apart at the thought of not breast feeding.
Anyway, roll on to the Monday, and I went to the breastfeeding support group at the hospital despite only having got out of hospital on the Saturday. That was stressful in itself as Iʼd never packed for going for a day out with a baby before (it sounds so silly now).
They checked my milk, my technique, told me to express more and then straight away noticed the tongue-tie, and filled in a referral form for it to be done at hospital. I chased it up the next day, at the other hospital, to see if they had received the fax. They said they had but as they only do them once a week on Tuesday it was too late to have it done that day.
So Aaron was already a week old and that told me I would have to wait another week, with every day being so precious. AND the following week the person who did it was on jury service so I arranged for someone else to do it the following Wednesday and I got a text to say they were sick.
What was heartbreaking was I had an appointment for the Tuesday and Wednesday of that week but opted for the Wednesday one (as the Tuesday was in a group at Kings) but because I did not get the text till 8pm on Tuesday night it was too late to go to that so I waited a further week.
I talked about it here and here on Netmums.
To cut a long story short (which is ironic as the procedure is a cut): the tongue-tie was not snipped until 6th July.
To write this guest post I trawled back through everything I said on netmums (which took hours) and it reminded me of something I had forgotten, which is how VERY much cranial osteopathy helped. Look at my post from 28th July, here:
As it was difficult getting to the breastfeeding support group at hospital, I went to the local one, and between tips I got from there, and the cranial osteopathy, I got breastfeeding established at 6 weeks!
The drugs do work
At the hospital where the tongue-tie was cut, they gave me a prescription for domperidone – I saw the increase in my milk supply (and the length Aaron spent on the breast) immediately. [Adele: For a more in-depth discussion of this drug, see tomorrow’s post, “Taking drugs to make breast milk”.]
Here I was on Netmums talking about how the breastfeeding was going (itʼs the post at the very bottom of the page if you want to scroll down).
I am sad about my post here, as it says I will do a long blog post about it and I never did.
We got to a point where we were really doing well with the breastfeeding and it was giving me extra sleep.
In October I ended up agreeing to work from home (despite being on maternity leave) and that really adversely affected my milk supply (there is a link with stress). I went back and got another prescription of domperidone and I got myself back on track – had I not known about it, it would have been the end of breastfeeding for me.
When I wasnʼt taking that (you only get 2 weeks worth) I started taking a supplement I bought online called
More Milk Plus
Tips for working through low milk supply
I found I had to make sure I was eating regularly and they had to be healthy meals. If I went too long without lunch I would become really really moody. My body and the milk needed FOOD and lots of it. The quality of your milk needs this too, so I also took Pregnacare for breastfeeding.
What was funny was I did get one more chance to go to the hospital breastfeeding support group, and it was when Aaron was 5 weeks. I said to them, what is the longest you have seen someone establish breastfeeding and they said 4 weeks (and one of them had been doing this for 20 years) – I nearly gave up on the spot as I was a week late!
So my message is: donʼt give up even if the experts tell you to.
Because my milk wasnʼt coming out as fast as the bottle, I had to feed Aaron before he was hungry (30 to 40 minutes before) and then he would have the patience to stay on. This tip was invaluable to me.
Also what really got us started was a nipple shield and the “best” one did not work. It was a Boots own brand one that worked best. And they say it is hard to then get off them, but after only a couple of days, he was grizzly one time, and I plonked him on the breast, and he went on without the shield, so I never looked back and never used it again. But it got us started.
You really, really have to be in the right frame of mind though. If you are stressed about technique and latching they wonʼt go on. My first successful attempt in week 6 was after days of not having done it, and I plonked him on, so that I could go back the next week and tell her it did not work. Because I did it that nonchalantly it worked!
Breastfeeding when they only want comfort rather than food, is a great way of stimulating your milk. Also you need to do some night feeds, to stimulate your milk – this really works – so if baby wakes in the night, plonk them on the breast.
I had to keep trying as I felt so upset and had a feeling of worthlessness every time I thought about giving up.
It did make the feeds twice as long as I had to breast and bottle feed at every feed (due to starting so late, I never did get enough milk to fully satisfy him), but I know he used to get 2-3 ounces from me, and sometimes more.
The times when he needed comfort, having the breast as a tool, was invaluable; I donʼt know how I would have coped otherwise. Aaron was actually circumcised and the breast was the only thing that comforted him after that. He breastfed a lot that week.
I am so glad that I persevered as it is also fantastic for his immune system.
I think I could have got breastfeeding established earlier if (1) Iʼd known in hospital about nipple shields (2) the tongue tie had been cut much earlier (3) Iʼd had time to express more often and (4) my Mum had not been staying with me (she was very prudish and Iʼd have to leave the room to breastfeed which was not relaxing and was very stressful so lessened the times that I did it).
Anyway, we went on to breastfeed until Aaron was 13 months – yes we combination-fed all the way through, but I am so glad that I didnʼt feel I had to do one or the other. We derived countless benefits from the breastfeeding, even with doing it partially, and I wouldnʼt change that for the world.
Please feel free to ask me questions as there are bits above that I have had to skim over that I would love to elaborate on given the chance and sorry this post is so long.
This week is Baby Feeding Week on Circus Queen. I’m celebrating having made it to six months of breast and bottle feeding my daughter through LOTS of difficulty. Look out for tomorrow’s Baby Feeding Week post: “Taking drugs to keep breastfeeding”.