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Breastfeeding Isn't Always Easy Baby

Three months after our baby had the laser frenulectomy for her upper lip-tie and lower tongue-tie, shortly after I stopped massaging the areas in her mouth where the extra skin was lasered off, the breastfeeding latching issues started up yet again.  Needless to say this was frustrating.  When I went to breastfeed my baby, she began clamping down extra hard with her mouth on my breasts, causing severe breast pain.  At this point I was like a deer in headlights not knowing what to do.   I figured we already addressed the lip-tie and tongue tie issue, what else did we need to look into now?

Every time I went to breastfeed, I began to tense up from the anticipated pain of her mouth clamping down harder than usual onto my breast.  My baby looked frustrated as well.  I went to see three more lactation specialists and was told by one that my baby had a strong “clamp-down” reflex and sometimes this was just an issue that couldn’t always be fixed.  My lactation specialist tried everything she could do to help me and then recommended that a craniosacral therapist. She said she may be able to help my baby’s “clamp-down” reflex and shared another woman’s success story.

After much time and money was spent trying to resolve “clamping” issue, even after seeing a craniosacral therapist, things were only getting worse.  I wanted so badly for breastfeeding to work and felt like I would do whatever it took to figure it out and resolve it.  Nothing was working no matter how many lactation consultants I saw.  I felt like I had no where else to turn for help.

As much as I wanted to continue, I had to stop breastfeeding at around 6 months and I began to pump.  Not reaching by breastfeeding goals were quite discouraging to say the least.

Months after this was all over, while I was formally training to become a professional certified lactation counselor I learned there that there is no such thing as a “clamp-down” reflex when breastfeeding, and if the baby is clamping down hard on your breast, this means the baby is having a latching problem and difficulty with milk transfer (getting enough milk to come out).

Based on where the cuts on my breasts and nipples were located, clearly indicated my baby’s lip-tie had grown back again (4 months after the surgery).  I was told by the pediatric dentist when she originally had the procedure done that regrowth could sometimes be an issue however 2 months after she had the procedure done, the dentist who did the procedure did a follow-up check up and said the areas that were lasered in her mouth looked great, so I figured we didn’t need to look back with the tongue-tie, lip-tie issue.

My baby’s lip tie grew back 4 months after it was lasered and she should have had a laser frenulectomy on her labial frenulum (lip-tie) done a second time to resolve the repeated latching problems.  I, unfortunately did not know or understand this information until many months after I had already stopped breastfeeding.

We could have properly addressed the problem instead of thinking it was something else, something different that couldn’t be helped because it could have been an easy fix if we went back to the pediatric dentist again.

It is still not common-place for many specialists to be treating tongue-ties and lip-ties, therefore how could they then search for regrowth of lip-tie if they are not that familiar with it to begin with, much less the regrowth of it? I do feel it important in future training for lactation specialists to become adept at noticing a possible re-growth of tongue or lip tie knowing that this can be the cause of why breast pain that was once first resolved by the baby having a frenulectomy has the possibility of coming back again.

And the pediatric dentist should know that the unnoticed re-growth happened a month or two after their follow-up, maybe they should note that frenulectomy patients should have another follow up as well.

I met another breastfeeding mother who had this same issue that did end up having the laser frenulectomy for a second time on her baby and was able to continue breastfeeding for a much longer period of time.

Had my baby had the laser upper labial frenulectomy  done for a second time, we would have both likely both been able to go back to breastfeeding comfortably again.

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 positives, hiccups, and challenges that go along with them.  Sometimes a laser frenulectomy may need to be repeated more than once to fully resolve the breastfeeding latching problem.

 

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.)

 

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