Tongue Tie

Tongue Tie Troubles – A Tale of Two Babies.

milk_mustacheI was always eager to breastfeed and before my baby was born there was no doubt in my mind that I would do it and succeed. I expected it would be difficult at first but could never have imagined how hard I would have to fight to succeed.

My first girl Amy was born following a thankfully quick delivery with only gas and air.
She latched on straight away and I breathed a sigh of relief – the first breastfeeding hurdle
had been cleared. The midwife took a cursory look at her latch, declared all was well and
that was my only breastfeeding support in the hospital.

Amy had the misfortune to born at the weekend and since breastfeeding classes only
happen during the week there was no other specialist breastfeeding advice on offer in the
hospital. The neonatologist examined Amy before leaving the hospital and told us that
she has a quite severe tongue tie but that there was nothing to worry about – it usually
sorted itself out and that no further action was required at this time. I should mention
that no midwife checked for this and I had been feeding for 48 hrs at this stage and was
getting very sore. When I mentioned tongue tie to them, there was never a suggestion that
this could impact breastfeeding in anyway.

We arrived home and we settled into a routine of very long feeds and short sleeps – I had
expected this and got myself comfortable in front of the tv and assumed that once my
milk supply was established it would settle down. All the while, I was getting sorer and
sorer – my nipples were severely grazed almost the whole way around and were bleeding.
My baby was now spitting up my blood which was very distressing. I assumed it was
the latch and contacted my local breastfeeding support organization (I do not want to
mention it here as I feel that they give great support and do not want my experience to
influence anyone’s opinion) and a very kind volunteer arrived to my house to give advice
on the latch and positioning – tongue tie was not checked or mentioned. I went to my
Public Health Nurse who advised me to go to local breastfeeding classes – her biggest
concern was weight and since Amy was doing well in that department she was not overly
concerned. Her suggestion was to supplement with a bottle to allow me time to heal. I
attended the local breastfeeding class and while they were great for meeting other Mums,
the specialist advice I needed was not there. I attended my GP and while he is very
supportive in general he didn’t feel it worth the effort to persevere given all the stress and
suggested I should switch to formula.

I continued my own research – internet, baby forums – and everything was pointing to
the tongue tie. I tried shields and every cream under the sun but I was so sore at this point
that I was crying through every feed. Far from it being the bonding time I had hoped for,
I dreaded every feed and resented my beautiful girl every time I heard her crying for a
feed. I went for my six week check-up with my neonatologist and again his only concern
was weight and I got a private referral to an ENT. I am still waiting for the appointment.

At this stage, I was in such a state that all my friends and family were urging me to stop.
I am lucky that my own mother and sister breastfed their children or else there is no way

I could have continued. I made the decision to start pumping some feeds and rented a
hospital grade pump (I think it was 70 euros a month at the time.) and started to pump.
So I could stay ahead of the feeds, I had to pump during the night and early mornings
which was very time consuming. Amy took very well to the bottle and since she was
feeding more effectively she was taking more at each feed and settling for longer sleeps.
As my nipples still had not healed, I decided to pump exclusively to give them a break.
All the while, I was continuing my research and made the decision to get the tongue tie
snipped myself. I contacted a very supportive and knowledgeable lactation consultant
on this issue and they recommended a doctor in Maynooth. I made an appointment and
the procedure took 5 seconds and there was minimal bleeding. Amy fed straight away
afterwards – she was 8 weeks at this stage.

Unfortunately, we never recovered and resumed breastfeeding – although I did I continue
to pump exclusively for 6 months. I had bad associations with breastfeeding – I expected
severe pain on every latch and was tense as a result. Amy could sense this and was very
fussy on the breast. I was so tired after an extremely difficult pregnancy and tough 8
weeks post birth that I had no energy to keep fighting. I am very proud that I continued
to pump and have no regrets about getting the procedure done. I strongly believe that it
would have affected her speech down the line and would have had to be released under
general anesthetic so saved my little girl from a more serious procedure down the road.

Three years later and my second pregnancy could not have been a more different
experience. I had done all my research and was totally prepared what I would do if my
second baby had a tongue tie. I had contacted a professional lactation consultant and had
her on standby. I was ready to stand my ground in the hospital and was not going to leave
until the tongue tie was released.

After another fast labour, Zoe arrived into the world. The first thing I asked the midwife
to check was the tongue tie and when the verdict was no, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I asked three other midwives to check (neurotic mother 😉 )and the answer was the same.
Then the neonatologist arrived and just as he was leaving I asked him to check and we
were surprised to hear that yes, Zoe did have a tongue tie and quite a severe one. I was
ready to start a fight and to demand that it be released before I leave the hospital. But
it was so much easier than that – my neonatologist said that he didn’t do the procedure
but that he would refer me to his colleague. As it was the weekend, he couldn’t get an
appointment but would ring me. I was still skeptical but I got a call from him to say that
Dr Sheridan would see me on Monday evening at 7pm. I cried with happiness.

We persevered on with the breastfeeding but the same demons were coming back to
haunt me – again my nipples were severely cut on all sides. This time though, I knew that
help was coming and very soon. Dr Margaret Sheridan is an angel and I can’t praise her
highly enough. She did the procedure herself that Monday night and since it was a more
complex tongue tie it had to be released in two separate procedures to ensure that there
wasn’t excessive blood loss. I will fully admit that it was a more difficult procedure to
witness this time round as it required very careful attention and Zoe had to be held down
for a longer period.

As the tongue tie was released in two separate procedures over a period of ten days, I was
still dealing with the issues with my damaged nipples. So the next angel arrived to my
door – lactation consultant Catriona McCarthy – she gave me the tips to allow me to heal
– breast shells (not shields) to allow the air to circulate, laid back breastfeeding to take
the pressure off the sorest parts and promote the re-bonding process and finally a special
nipple cream to speed the healing process. This cream is a miracle cure and I only wish
that more GPs and doctors knew about it.

Zoe and I finally were able to enjoy a relaxed and stress-free breastfeeding experience. I
finally got to understand why so many Mums adore breastfeeding and I will forever be
grateful to Dr Sheridan and Catriona for supporting me and allowing me to experience it.