Previously, I had the general idea from my own breastfeeding experience that when I made the commitment to exclusively provide breastmilk for my daughter for at least the first year of her life between a combination of breastfeeding for six months and strictly pumping for 7 months, I began to strongly get the feeling from society overall that my choice was something “out of the norm.”
It seemed to me what I knew was ideal for my infant’s health by breastfeeding was something the majority of other new mothers were not doing. This made me feel as if I was the “odd mother out”, and as if formula feeding shortly after childbirth was not only the more convenient thing to do, but what was overall more accepted by society.
When we were having all sorts of challenges with breastfeeding, I was pressured to give my baby formula versus breast milk by physicians and other health professionals as well as by close friends and family members. I received the strong message from society that formula feeding your baby shortly after childbirth was considered by many to be equally beneficial to infants’ overall health as breastfeeding was.
This caused me to want to know the reasons why this unfortunate reality was the case. I learned that when multiple patents of formula first came out in the 1970’s, their were major investment dollars put towards advertising and marketing campaigns put forth to the general public, creating the false notion that formula was equally as beneficial as breast milk was. Generations from this period on who were raising children became and still continue to be staunch believers of the false notion that formula-feeding infants is the optimal feeding method.
Despite clear recommendations to new mothers from the American Academy of Pediatrics for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first year of an infant’s life, presently the U.S.’s exclusive breastfeeding rates (measured at infants’ age of six months) have declined to an unimpressive 12% and decline more each year. These declining numbers have dropped so far that exclusive breastfeeding rates in the U.S. are extremely low.
Volk’s evidence suggests is that as the U.S.’s breastfeeding rates decline, infant mortality will increase. This is a major problem and will continue to detrimentally effect our overall nation’s health, throwing another large rock into the pile of our already existing health crisis.
Despite breastfeeding’s multitude of health benefits, why else are so many new mothers giving up so quickly on breastfeeding? I myself, did almost give up on breastfeeding that first year of my infant’s life more times than I can count. Wasn’t breastfeeding supposed to be easy? It seemed like common knowledge that once we as humans had a human baby, upon the birth of that baby, shouldn’t breastfeeding come naturally without the need to troubleshoot so much?
The reality was, that at least for me, learning to breastfeed was not an easy task at all, and I had to overcome many obstacles to get through that first year of exclusively breastfeeding/providing breast milk for my child. The article by Volk on explaining how breastfeeding is not an automatic thing, helped me understand the logic behind why the skill of breastfeeding is not at all an easy task for not just me, but most women. Most women trying to breastfeed for the first time feel isolated in their efforts and are unaware of the fact that many other mothers are experiencing the same struggles as them, and I greatly believe this is the first reason why most new mothers prematurely give up on the idea of breastfeeding.
Volk’s theoretical descriptions helped me to understand more in-depth how our evolutionary changes have contributed to the U.S.’s declining breastfeeding rates. In the past, breastfeeding was more successful because humans interacted more with each other face to face and learned how to breastfeed by watching other women breastfeed in groups where they connected more with one another and learned from each other in person. It is not as much that way anymore in today’s day and age due to advanced technology and the accessibility of computers and cell phones.
Today, people have more of a tendency to individually seek out information from the internet allowing people the option of not needing to interact as much in person. New mothers often think they can solve an intimate problem such as breastfeeding because it entails a private part of their body (their breasts) and additionally most women believe when it comes to feeding their child, they should not have to seek out an expert’s advice (or are unaware that breastfeeding experts even exist) or face to face support and by searching for the answer from the internet.
However, our nation’s declining breastfeeding rates prove otherwise and women ultimately are often giving up breastfeeding before realizing that skilled professionals can provide support and help them to learn to have the strength and motivation to continue trying. Volk’s evidence suggests that since human breastfeeding is not automatic, the face to face help of a lactation consultant, support group or other health professional is crucial in learning to breastfeed successfully.
Because many of today’s physicians that treat new mothers are not formally educated on the numerous lifelong benefits breastfeeding, their support on recommending that their patients breastfeed is lacking, causing many new mothers not to realize how important breastfeeding truly is. The insufficient amount of breastfeeding knowledge on the part of today’s physicians and health professionals only adds to problem of the continuing decline in U.S. breastfeeding rates. As a breastfeeding educator, I hope to create more of an awareness about the importance of breastfeeding with other health professionals as well as provide individual and group breastfeeding support to new mothers to help work towards making positive change.
Berger, K.S. (2014). Invitation to The Lifespan 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Worth, 110
Miller, P.M & Commons, M.L. (2010). The Benefits of Attachment Parenting for Infants and Children: A Behavioral Developmental View. Behavioral Developmental Bulletin, Vol. 10. Cambridge: Harvard Medical School Press. 1-14
Volk, A.A. (2009). Human Breastfeeding is Not Automatic: Why That’s So and What it Means For Human Evolution. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology . 305-314
Witters-Green, R. (2003). Increasing Breastfeeding Rates in Working Mothers. Families Systems & Health, Vol. 21, No. 4, 415-433
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.)
Some women seem to have no trouble breastfeeding their newborn child. They could breastfeed doing a handstand and never claim discomfort even for a minute. That wasn’t me. I had bad back problems before, during, and after my pregnancy.
Sitting to breastfeed a newborn, as awesome as the experience itself was, seemed to aggravate my back repeatedly in all of the suggested breastfeeding positions. To add to it, I had to hold my baby’s head and body up closer just to get to my breast over and over again where I started getting aches and pains like carpel tunnel in my hands and wrists and even shoulder, neck, and back pain from leaning over to get closer to my baby. I thought there had to be an easier, more comfortable way to breastfeed. I was very committed to making breastfeeding work and didn’t want to quit, so I did every possible thing to be creative to make the experience more comfortable for me and my baby. I went to many lactation consultants, physical therapists and various other specialists and tried absolutely anything that could possibly help in breastfeeding more comfortably.
During this time, I was also spending quite a bit of time with other new breastfeeding mothers. Being new moms, we would often breastfeed our babies together and I noticed it wasn’t only me – my new mother friends were breastfeeding in similar awkward positions contorting their bodies especially by leaning over to get closer to the baby and I often heard them complain of their own aches and pains. I was also taking a “Mommy and Me” Yoga class where women would do yoga together when the babies were newborns and we would all need to sit on the floor against the wall and take breaks during the yoga class to breastfeed our babies. Again, I noticed lots of leaning over and slouching and no breastfeeding mother of a newborn in that yoga class ever looked comfortable.
I quickly began to realize that breastfeeding a newborn 10-12 hours a day involved quite a bit of sitting for long periods of time. Here are some tips that helped me along the way to modify my body aches and pains from breastfeeding my newborn baby and hopefully they can help you breastfeed more comfortably too:
Congratulations with your new baby and happy breastfeeding your baby comfortably!