I always thought breastfeeding after having my baby should come naturally. It did seem like it was easy at first. Breastfeeding for those first three weeks was bliss. Forget the fact that I wasn’t getting any sleep. Every time I breastfed it was bar none, the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced in my life. I felt empowered by what my body was capable of and felt one with the universe.
Slowly into the third week, however I started experiencing some serious breast pain every time my baby went to breastfeed. I literally was saying out loud “ow ow ow” every time she went on my breast. Being the fact that I was a new mom, I had no idea of how it was or wasn’t supposed to feel so I thought I should just “tough out” the pain I was experiencing from breastfeeding no matter how bad it got, and assumed that I was doing what I was supposed to be in the way I should be doing it. Go figure.
Later I learned, while training to become a certified lactation counselor, that “toughing out” pain from breastfeeding over an extended period of time is a signal there is a problem with the baby’s latch and needs to be corrected. When breastfeeding is going right, breastfeeding should not hurt.
After enduring worsening breast discomfort while breastfeeding for about a week or so, I finally decided to go to a lactation consultant and also back to my mid-wife and learned from both that my daughter had an upper lip-tie (labial frenulum) as well as a lower tongue-tie, causing her to have latching issues. The poor latch was causing my nipple and sensitive part of my breast to be scrunched and rubbed repeatedly over and over again against the roof of my baby’s mouth in an improper way, leading to open cuts on the tops and side outer edges of my nipples that worsened every time my baby breastfed. My baby would also take much longer nursing sessions than the average baby (60 minutes when it was only supposed to be 15-20 minutes) and would often fall asleep multiple times while nursing from getting exhausted from not being able to get the milk to come out as fast as she wanted it to from having problems with her latch.
We were told to go to a pediatric dentist to get a laser frenulectomy to fix the tongue and lip tie for our daughter at only about 3 and a half weeks old. It was mentioned that breastfeeding would likely get easier if this was addressed right away. It was scary for us as new parents to have this be the first surgery our baby daughter needed so quickly after she was just born, however the procedure itself lasted less than ten minutes.
We anxiously waited behind closed doors in the pediatric dentist’s office hoping everything would be okay with our little girl. The dentist told me to breastfeed my baby immediately after the procedure to comfort her and more importantly for us to see if her latch improved and I was more comfortable breastfeeding.
Trying to nurse my baby in the dental chair with no armrest was a little uncomfortable and I needed something to boost her up closer to my breast. I used a Prop ’em Up™ Baby Boost Up nursing assist pillow to boost my baby’s body up closer to me to breastfeed and it made all of the difference for myself and my baby to be more comfortable after what felt like a traumatic experience for all of us. (Later I breastfed my baby back home “hands-free” in the side-lying position in bed with the Prop ’em Up™ head size nursing assist pillow.)
After the frenulectomy, recovery for our baby wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We gave her Tylenol every few hours for a couple of days with some cool compresses, and I was instructed by the pediatric dentist to use gloves and massage under her lip with one (gloved) finger as well as swipe lightly under her tongue (with one gloved finger) after every diaper change to reinforce what the laser surgery did to make sure the problem (the skin that was lasered off) didn’t return. Massaging the inside of my baby’s mouth in two spots 8-10 times a day wasn’t a joyful experience, and my baby wasn’t thrilled with it either, but I religiously did this multiple times a day for eight weeks straight. I was then told I didn’t need to do it anymore. After 8 weeks, I was so happy to be able to stop massaging the inside my baby’s mouth, thinking everything had resolved itself and we could breathe a sigh of relief and not look back.
Breastfeeding did get better for a good amount of time (about 3 months) after the laser frenulectomy and I was thankful we opted for my daughter to have had this procedure because it allowed me to breastfeed again for a longer period of time without pain.
I hope this blog helps any breastfeeding mother seeking out information and others’ experiences with tongue-tie, labial frenulum (lip-ties), laser frenulectomies, and all the challenges and hiccups that come along with them. Sometimes a laser frenulectomy may need to be repeated more than once to fully resolve the breastfeeding latching problem.
(Please see part 2 of I’m Not Tongue-tied When I Say Breastfeeding Isn’t Easy Baby for more information on my what happened with us and breastfeeding a couple of months after the baby had the laser frenulectomy procedure done.)