When Breastfeeding Hurts: How I Pushed for Answers and Found Help

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The first latch hurt so did the next one, and the one after that. I was told it since I was a first-time mom it might be uncomfortable but this was downright painful! Within a few days, we were told my son lost too much weight so we immediately met with a lactation consultant who told me to feed and pump and feed and pump! For the next few weeks, I would feed for 30 minutes on each side, pump for another 30 minutes, and then wash pump parts while my husband fed our son whatever remained in the bottle. Then almost instantly we’d repeat this cycle every day and I was sleeping in 30-60 minutes spurts. At a two week appointment, my baby had not gained enough weight and I broke down in tears in front of the pediatrician while I leaked milk from my engorged and painful boobs. I didn’t understand, I had so much extra milk stored in the freezer and he was latching and content every time…why wasn’t he gaining weight and why was I in pain?

The lactation visits continued and I was told his latch looked good and I needed to make sure I was holding him in the right position. I told them I was in excruciating pain with every latch and they told me to breathe out deeply and cry if I needed to, that the initial latch was the worst and it would get better. It was 2 months later and I remember my husband handing me the baby for a feeding and I broke down and cried because I did want to feed him. I was in so much pain that I winced even putting on nipple cream or putting on clothes. My husband told me he’d give him a bottle and I could just pump but I knew that wasn’t solving the problem. So I went on the hunt for answers and support. I attended La Leche League meetings, scoured kellymom.com, and talked to so many other moms but didn’t get any clear answers. At one La Leche meeting, I heard a mom talking about getting her baby’s tongue tie revised so I asked more questions and started to wonder if my son also had a tongue tie.

I went home and read everything I could find about tongue ties and started to realize my son checked a lot of the boxes: He had a shallow latch, dribbled milk out of the corners of his mouth (even with a bottle), and most of all it was painful to me! But the lactation consultant and pediatrician told me he didn’t have a tongue-tie. So I went to a new pediatrician who told me “Yes, he looks like he may have a slight tongue tie but we don’t revise the posterior ones because of the high risk of bleeding. It just maybe a little uncomfortable for you.” Yet again, another professional diminished my experience and described my pain as “a little uncomfortable”. I was devastated having hoped that was the answer but I kept searching because I couldn’t throw in the towel yet. I found out about a woman named Dr.Maura doing “Cranial Sacral Therapy” near our home in southern California, moms raved about her, and how she helped them breastfeed again. So I went every week and saw improvements for a few days and then he would revert to his old ways. Dr. Maura explained that this is common with tongue-tied babies. She listened to me, educated me, and most importantly she empowered me. She told me about all my options in the area for a diagnosis/revision and directed me to a holistic pediatric dentist that specialized in tongue tie revisions.

Our dentist confirmed our son had both a lip and tongue which she could revise with a laser over the course of two visits. We found out how left untreated tongue ties could potentially cause other issues down the road such as speech delays and problems eating solid foods. So we did the revision at about 4 months and to say it was tough would be an understatement. He was in pain afterward and we had to do post-op stretches to make sure the tongue wouldn’t grow back. I questioned myself and thought I made the wrong choice. What if I put my baby through this and it doesn’t even help? But it did help. After a few weeks, we went back to cranial sacral therapy to not only remove tension from the body after the procedure but also adjust him so that he could relearn his latch. We went to myofascial therapy and occupational therapy to help his suck pattern and slowly but surely he got it and we went on to breastfeed for 15 months.

Two years later my daughter was born and we had breastfeeding issues in the hospital so right off the bat I made appointments with a lactation consultant and our cranial sacral therapist. Turns out she had a slight lip tie but with cranial-sacral therapy alone we were able to breastfeed pain-free. I was so thankful to be armed with all of this information and know where to go and who to call.

Here are some helpful links if you suspect your baby may have a tongue-tie:

This man is a wealth of information Dr.Ghaheri

Find a support group near you: La Leche League

Find a chiropractor certified in pediatrics

Find a provider certified in cranial sacral therapy

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