This is the second in my Nursing Tips series. I am writing these to myself as a reminder for future needs I may have. I also hope that any Mama’s reading may be able to glean a bit of help from it if they find themselves in a similar situation. As always, these are simply my [not always right] thoughts, and none are recommendations for you. Please seek professional help if you need! Other posts in the series:
- Our Rainbow; the start of this particular journey
- Nursing Tips: Infection
- Nursing Tips: Ties
- Nursing Tips: Supply
- Nursing Tips: List of Herbs
When Aury was born, the midwife checked his mouth and said that he had both a tongue and lip tie. If you know me, you know I balk at this ‘silly nonsense’ as trendy lunacy. Well, not anymore. If you remember, his poor latched caused bleeding inflamed swollen nipples within a few days of his birth, leading to infection and mastitis, and almost ten weeks of recovery. But we prevailed! Despite some rather bleak moments when I wasn’t sure we’d succeed at breastfeeding, I can report that we are still at it – and everything is going swimmingly at last!
On Day 6 postpartum, the first bit of relief arrived. With an injection of local anesthetic, Aury had both his lip & tongue tie corrected. He cried for 10 seconds. I cried for 20 minutes. I couldn’t even fathom doing the every-two-hour exercises to making sure things healed correctly. Scott did it as often as he could, and Adyn did when Scott couldn’t. After almost a week, I finally built up the courage to do it, and took over. It wasn’t all that bad. By then, the heebeejeebees were minimal, and Aury really didn’t have much of a problem with it, even from the beginning.
The next two nursings after the tie corrections were slightly better.
My midwife had suggested using a nipple shield to keep things better protected as they healed; and to keep pain just a little bit less. Scott left in the late night hunting some down. He came home with several, all the same size, but different brands. I was surprised that they all fit very differently; one just right. Because of the poor latch and angry nips, I was incredibly swollen (I may have referred to myself as an “amazon woman” at one point as I cried to our lactation consultant), which made for fitting a bit different during this time vs. after things settled down. I was glad for the variety.
I’ve never used nipple shields, and it made no sense to me at first. I did some internet searching about how they work, and how to use them, and found them to be a real psychologic buffer that made nursing much more … well, less petrifying (the pain was intense). Because of Aury’s poor latch, I had scabbing, which plugged the shields at the beginning of each nursing. I’d have to take them off and clean out in order to finish nursing. Also, for several weeks due to my initial infection, my milk was very stringy – but usually passed through the shields holes.
I’ll be honest… I cried the first several (and randomly after that) times that I used the shield. It felt like a breastfeeding loss. I had to grieve a bit before I could accept that it would help. I didn’t like having this “fake” nipple being what my baby learned to nurse. I was jealous of it. I was mad at it. But I definitely learned to love it! I was concerned it may become a necessity for our entire breastfeeding journey, but am thankful that with time we were able to wean away from it completely and back to al la natural.
That night, feedings became incredibly painful again. I was so discouraged. After midnight, I emailed a lactation consult an emergent request for help. I really felt like I was at my wits end. I was a huge mess.
Amber Ham Langelier, the lactation consult, arrived at 9am the next morning. We talked about the ties. We talked about the infection and the damaged nipples. She was calm. She was kind. And she found the fix: positioning. I thought I had tried it all, and yet her simple solution was perfect. It was the big turning point on our breastfeeding journey. Apparently Aury had been tucking his chin while nursing, due likely to his lip and tongue ties, which was irritating my nipples and was causing the pain. We moved away from the cradle position (she mentioned this is actually not a very good position in general) to either Aury “standing” in front, or the “football” position or both of us laying down. In all of these positions, I could really make him stretch his chin upward and reach for the nipple, which was exactly what we needed. Even now, months later, his natural tendency is still to tuck his chin.
I continued using the nipple shield for more than a month, longer for my damaged/infected side. The first time I didn’t use it, I was so scared. It took several days to wean from it entirely (mostly because I wasn’t psychologically ready). I continued having latch-on pain in my left side until Aury was almost 10 weeks old. The pain went deep into my tissue, all the way to my ribs.
I wasn’t sure whether or not the damage was permanent at this point. I had some pretty intense (and deep) scabbing for a long while. It got smaller and smaller oh so slowly until at last it all [tissue, not scab] sloughed off after a nursing. It was disgusting. And horrifying! But after that, milk flowed much more freely. I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully pumped on that side again as well – A feat I thought literally impossible after that roller coaster!
Thankfully, right around his 3 month bend, I remember one day realizing: “huh! it hasn’t hurt for a while!” What a blessing that the pain slipped away like that! Now we are nursing well, things have healed back miraculously (IMO) nicely – the tissue filling back in – and our little chunk of a fellow has apparently thrived! I chalk it up to God’s great provision. He is in the 90% for weight, and 75% for height, weighing almost 17 pounds at his three month check up. His older siblings weighed that at one year old! And have never been anywhere near his height percentile. We may have a football player on our hands.
I learned a good lesson about my mockery of tongue ties: it’s real, folks, and it can be awful. I still think babes are diagnosed (or rather, treated) too often for it, but also realize that I need to get off my soapbox and admit I’m wrong: I need help. I’m thankful for the gals in my life that supported me through that, and especially Mary & Pita who were able to correct it, and Amber who taught me how to form new habits out of it! I’m especially thankful to our Creator who made all things so adaptable and unique. I’m so thankful that my body was able to heal from that whole ordeal and for being able to nourish my wee one in this way through it all. I count both a huge blessing and privilege! I’ve learned I cannot expect these things ‘just because,’ but instead thank God each day for the gifts we have, day by day.