What More is There to Learn About Breastfeeding?


I was at the Lactation Consultants in Private Practice conference in Philadelphia this weekend, chatting with another hotel guest, making the usual small talk.  When she found out that there were almost 200 of us at the hotel for a lactation conference, she was shocked.  She said “I just have to ask, after all of these years, what more is there really to learn about breastfeeding?  When I had my babies, I just put them to my breast and they nursed.  It doesn’t seem that there is that much more to know.”  I had to laugh, because we get that question all of the time. We told her that there really isn’t that much to know when breastfeeding is going well, as it often does.  However, when breastfeeding isn’t going well, there are hundreds of reasons why and hundreds of ways an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) can help.

Many people think that lactation consultants just help moms position babies to latch. However, that is a very, very small part of what we do.  We are the only specialty that looks at the mother/baby dyad together.  We recognize that what happens with one affects the other.  IBCLCs in private practice usually work with moms and babies who are struggling for some reason.  I rarely have a consultation where we just need to help mom get baby in a good position to latch, and no one ever sets up an appointment with me just to show me how well things are going (although that would be nice).

We work with babies who are having feeding issues cause by things like tethered oral tissues (tongue or lip tie), hypotonia, structural issues due to a rough birth or position in the womb (think twins or breech babies), cleft lip/palate, reflux, etc.  We also work with moms who may have low milk supply and we help her try to find the cause, such as insulin resistance, PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), a baby who is nursing inefficiently, thyroid disorder, post-partum hemorrhage, etc.

In addition, there are moms who want help transitioning to work, babies with colic, moms with mastitis or plugged ducts, moms who are engorged, babies on nursing strikes and so much more. And of course, many times, both mother and baby have problems that need to be addressed in order for breastfeeding to continue.  In order to help these moms and babies, and do it well, there is always more that we can learn.


Photo credit: Katy Linda, IBCLC

Lactation has long been a neglected area of medical research, but there is more and more research happening now that we can learn from and that will help moms and babies continue to breastfeed.  This weekend, we learned more about the endocrine system and how endocrine dysfunction impacts breast development and milk supply.  Did you know that insulin resistance impacts milk production?  Did you know that thyroid disorders can impact milk production and the milk ejection reflex?

We also learned about swallowing disorders, how to help babies with swallowing disorders breastfeed and why it is so important that babies with swallowing disorders are fed with breastmilk. Did you know that formula increases the risk of pneumonia in babies who aspirate?  We learned more about the muscles and nerves involved in swallowing so that we can better understand how structural misalignment, neurological issues, and muscle issues can impact sucking and swallowing.

We learned counseling skills so that we can better communicate with and support families who are struggling with breastfeeding.  We learned more time management and business skills so that we can stay in business to help the families who need it.

We learned more about the choices available for supplementation if mom is struggling with milk supply, such as donor human milk, standard formulas, hypoallergenic formulas, organic formulas, etc.  Are you surprised to hear that lactation consultants take the time to study different formula options?  We do, because we know that babies have to be fed in order to be healthy, and breastmilk isn’t always an option for every mother and baby.

We learned about therapeutic breast massage to help moms who are struggling with engorgment, plugged milk ducts or mastitis.  We learned more about the unique needs of premature babies.  We explored different options for treating wounded or infected nipples.  We covered a wide range of topics because, while there are many ways that breastfeeding can be derailed, there are also many things we can do to get it back on track.


Photo credit: Marissa Honey-Jones, IBCLC

This was just one conference of many that my partners and I, and many other IBCLCs, attend in order to not only meet our requirements for continuing education, but to better serve the families who come to us for help.  This is what sets us apart from other breastfeeding credentials.  Our role is not just to protect and support the normal course of breastfeeding, but to protect, support and rehabilitate when it has gone off course.


Why is an IBCLC an Essential Part of the Team: Addressing Tongue Tie

“I already know my baby has a tongue tie. What do I need a lactation consultant for?”  This is a very common question we get from moms.

As more and more information is made available about tongue and lip ties, we see more families who are choosing to go straight to a dentist or doctor for release of the tie.  Often, this is because they feel that they already know what the problem is and they feel they can save time and money by going straight to the provider that can correct the issue.  Sometimes this works out fine, but often, it leads to frustration for both the parent and the doctor or dentist.  So, here are 7 reasons why including a lactation consultant in your team of care providers is important:

Photo Credit: Mellanie Sheppard,, IBCLC

Photo Credit: Mellanie Sheppard,, IBCLC

1.  A good lactation consultant can fully assess tongue function and body alignment.  Sometimes there are other issues that restrict tongue function, such as tightness in the neck or jaw, fascial tightness in the pelvis/hips, torticollis, plagiocephaly and other structural issues.  Basically, anything that causes tightness or tension in the head/neck/shoulders or pelvis can affect the muscles in the tongue & mouth.  If these structural issues are not addressed, it can lead to an incomplete release of the restrictive frenulum, leading to the need for a second procedure down the road.  More importantly, once the structural issues are resolved, we sometimes find that the frenulum is not really tight and that a surgical release is not needed at all.

2. Very often, a frenectomy (release of tongue or lip tie) is presented as a simple solution that offers instant improvement.  Many parents are shocked to find that everything is not hearts and roses afterwards.  A lactation consultant can present a full picture of what to expect before and after tongue tie release.  The reality is that it takes time for infants to heal and for muscles baby has not been able to use properly to strengthen and work efficiently.  We can provide emotional support as well as practical help while you work through this process.

3.  Because you are going to panic! No matter how well prepared they think they are, many parents have a moment (or two or three) of panic if breastfeeding is really rough that first day or two after the procedure.  As kind as most of the dentists we work with are, they are just not equipped to offer breastfeeding support.  You may be worried that baby is still not able to nurse without that darn nipple shield you have been wanting to be rid of for weeks, or maybe you want to know if it is normal for baby to still be clicking 2 days after the tongue tie was released.  Sometimes you need someone objective and knowledgeable to take a peek at the wound and tell you whether or not it looks normal. Or maybe you just need someone to reassure you that what you are going through is normal.  We can do that!

4.  We can help you prepare.  Lactation consultants that work frequently with families with infants that have tongue or lip tie can tell you who the most skilled dentists and doctors are.  Not all providers are well-educated on various oral restrictions.  We can tell you who knows their stuff and who doesn’t. We can help you develop a plan to deal with the discomfort that follows the procedure, discuss your options for pain relief, prepare you for what to do if baby refuses to nurse afterwards and help you protect your milk supply if baby is not nursing as often as usual after the procedure. We can help you find skilled body workers (fascial integrative therapist, pediatric chiropractor, craniosacral therapist, osteopath, or myofascial therapist) to work with baby before and after frenectomy so that you and baby get the best recovery possible.  We can also point you towards research and information so that you can make an informed decision for your family.

5. We can work with you after frenectomy to help determine whether oral motor exercises are needed and tailor them to fit your infant’s needs.  Depending on how old your baby is and how severe the restriction was, your baby has probably developed compensations that helped him to breastfeed with restricted tongue and lip movement, leading to some muscles being overdeveloped and some being under utilized or under-developed.  Oral motor exercises can help train and strengthen the muscles needed for good tongue and lip function.  If more intense therapy is needed, we can refer you on to a good oral-motor therapist (usually a speech or occupational therapist).

6.  We can advise you on stretches to help with proper wound healing.  This is an area of big concern and anxiety for most parents.  Maybe you need someone to watch you do the stretches to make sure they are being done right.  Sometimes parents are so emotional after the procedure is finished that they don’t absorb much of the teaching on after-care.  Maybe your dentist/doctor didn’t talk to you at all about stretches and you need someone to talk with you about whether or not stretches are necessary.  We can also share the tips and tricks that we have learned over time that help to make the stretches easier.

7.  We can help you deal with the milk supply issues that often go along with tongue and lip tie.  Some women develop an over-supply that leads to frequent plugged milk ducts and mastitis because baby can’t nurse well.  Some women develop a low milk supply because baby is not taking enough milk from the breast or stimulating the breasts well.  Or maybe you have just enough milk but baby can’t nurse well enough to get it from the breast.  We can work with you to develop a pumping routine and determine the best way to supplement baby as needed, whether that is by finger feeding, cup feeding, supplementing at the breast, or bottle feeding.  We can help you address each of those issues while working through the tongue/lip tie release and recovery.

To sum it up, lactation consultants are trained experts on infant feeding.  Our job is to help you work through any and all issues that arise with breastfeeding, whether from tethered oral tissues (tongue or lip ties), positioning, milk supply or emotional support.  We are here to help you weigh the pros and cons and to make the decisions you feel are best for your baby and your family.

Every lactation consultant is an expert on breastfeeding, but not every lactation consultant is an expert on tethered oral tissues, structural issues as they affect breastfeeding,  and recovery after frenectomy.  Many of us have invested considerable amounts of time and money to acquire knowledge and information that is more advanced than the basic training required by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (the certifying board for IBCLC’s).  If you are not sure whether the lactation consultant you have contacted is an expert in this area, just ask.  Ask if they are knowledgeable on complete tongue function, if they have a good working relationship with local providers that release tongue/lip ties.  Can they recommend providers who work on structural issues?  Are they knowledgeable about the recovery period and what stretches and exercises are appropriate?  If you are hiring a professional to work with you, it is okay, desirable even, to ask about their experience and choose the one that best fits your needs.

Update 3/22/16:

Recently, I met with Dr. Robyn Abramczyk of Smile Ranch Dentistry and we sat down to talk about tongue tie, frenectomy, and how IBCLCs help.  Here is the video of our meeting:

Why Are We Afraid of Questions?

Photo credit: Valerie Cannon Photography  www.valeriecannonphotography.com

Photo credit: Valerie Cannon Photography

Look around you. How many families do you know who have a child with some kind of special need, chronic illness or learning difficulties? Autism. Kabuki Syndrome. Down Syndrome. Dyslexia. Attention Deficit Disorder. Mitochondrial Disease. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Williams Symdrome. Cri-du-Chat (5p minus) Syndrome. Cerebral Palsy. Cystic Fibrosis.  Food Allergies. Autoimmune Disease. Hypothyroidism. Chiari Malformation. Undiagnosed developmental delays. Congenital Heart Disease. Type 1 Diabetes.  I know children personally with each of these issues. Some families with multiple children touched by one or more of these diagnoses.

14% of children age 3-7 have been diagnosed with developmental delays. An estimated 1/68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. One in every 26 families is raising a child with a disability.  An estimated 2.8 million families is raising two or more children with disabilities. Childhood cancer rates are slowly rising. Type 1 diabetes in children increased by 23% from 2001-2009.  Autoimmune diseases are on the rise. It is undeniable that the population of children with special needs is growing. Some of the increase in can be attributed to better diagnostic tools, but not all of it.

These numbers should give you pause. They should even scare you a bit. Make you question why. But the questions can be uncomfortable. The answers elusive.

What questions can we ask?

If we question the number of vaccines given to children, we are dismissed as crazy and ignorant. If we question the safety of vaccine ingredients, we are labeled anti-vaccine and uninformed.  If we ask for better studies, we are ignored.  If we ask for accountability for government agencies requiring vaccines, or from vaccine manufacturers, we are dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

What about exposure to genetically modified foods?  Can we question that? Nope. Don’t go there. Monsanto only wants to feed the world, not harm us.

Well, what about the safety of pesticides used on the foods we eat or sprayed in the air to combat mosquitoes and other pests? Herbicides on our lawns? No, don’t question those either. They surely wouldn’t be used if they weren’t safe.

Plastics? BPA? PCBs?  Dioxin? Flame Retardants? Flouride? What are you? Some kind of paranoid nut?

Preservatives in foods? Artificial colors? Artificial flavors? Processed foods? Chemically altered oils or sweeteners?  Surely the FDA would not allow these if they were not safe.

So what questions can we ask? How can we stem the tide of increasing numbers of children who are born with or develop special needs? How long will we bury our heads in the sand and deny that there is a problem?  No topic should be so sacred that we cannot ask when it comes to our children.  Ask the hard questions.  Look at all sides of the issues.  They might lead to answers or they might just lead to different questions.  They might ease your mind or they might cause you to step out and demand change.  But don’t be afraid to ask the questions.

I’ve Jumped off the Essential Oil Bandwagon

Photo courtesy of Honolulu Media https://www.flickr.com/photos/68909241@N07/

Photo courtesy of Honolulu Media https://www.flickr.com/photos/68909241@N07/

Okay, not so much the essential oil bandwagon but definitely the MLM essential oil bandwagon.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to doTerra essential oils. I was intrigued by the idea of the therapeutic use of essential oils. I signed up and was excited to learn more.  Prior to that, my only experience with essential oils was using them for making homemade cleaning products.  I had tried using lavender essential oil a few times and hated it – it always gave me a headache.  After starting with doTerra, I learned that I didn’t hate lavender, I only hated adulterated lavender, which is most lavender available to purchase in stores.  I learned there was a difference between oils bought in most stores and doTerra’s Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) oils and of course I learned that doTerra is the only company with CPTG oils, inferring that only doTerra oils are pure enough.  Of course, interestingly, I had friends who signed up with Young Living, who coincidentally, also claims to have the only pure therapeutic grade oils.  Hmmm…

Because I tend to be skeptical, I went in search of some non-biased information.  I discovered Kurt Schnaubelt’s book The Healing Intelligence of Essential OilsIn reading Schnaubelt’s book, I was forever sold on essential oils.  He discussed clearly the issues with adulteration of essential oils, why pure oils are important and the science behind how/why essential oils worked.  I was happy to have confirmed doTerra’s stance that not all oils are created equal and that pure oils matter.  I began to get more involved in the business and was excited to share what I was learning about essential oils.  I listened in on some webinars offered by my upline and others in doTerra, I hosted some classes in my office and was encouraged to begin teaching classes and signing people up.  The people in my upline were very encouraging and supportive.  Many had had wonderful healing experiences with essential oils and were truly interested in helping others find healing through essential oils.

The problem was that, the more I learned, the more I realized that I had so much more to learn.  I was surprised and confused to find that there were no certified aromatherapists (the true experts in the field) on the management teams of either doTerra or Young Living.  I wondered how there could be so much published information on the benefits of essential oils if doTerra (or YL, depending on who you ask)  had the market cornered on pure oils.

I was frustrated at being seen as an “expert” in something that I knew so little about.  It felt false.  What had begun as a way to supplement my business as a private practice lactation consultant was becoming something that I felt I needed to keep separate from my lactation consultant practice.  I was not willing to experiment with essential oils with vulnerable clients.  Some were already using essential oils themselves and I gave input relevant to their situations, but ethically, I felt that I was not in a position to encourage the use of essential oils without a broader knowledge base to support it.  (Not that the use of essential oils is not compatible with breastfeeding, just that I did not have the knowledge required to confidently recommend the most appropriate essential oils, used in the most appropriate way.)  I learned first-hand that essential oils are not right for all people in all situations.  That caution is called for.  My youngest daughter has Kabuki Syndrome and something about the way her body metabolizes the oils makes it difficult to use them with her.  Sadly, she suffered through many awful rashes and reactions due to my attempts to use essential oils to help her.  I have found a few oils that we can use reliably with her, as long as they are diluted properly.  If I had sought expert advice from a certified aromatherapist, our introduction to essential oils would have been much gentler for our daughter.

I made it my mission to educate myself and learn more about essential oils.  The more I learned about essential oils from non-biased sources, the more I saw the misinformation that was rampant among the large MLM companies.  I saw reps with just a few weeks or months experience arguing with certified aromatherapists with many years of experience.  I saw dangerous recommendations, such as casual ingestion of oils and not properly diluting oils used on infants and young children, coming from those with little experience who were convinced that whatever they were recommending was safe because the oils were “therapeutic grade.  Those that developed rash or negative reaction to the oils were told that it was “just a detox reaction”.  I was saddened to see that so many on-line discussions of essential oils turned into Young Living vs doTerra arguments.  Thankfully, as I continued to research and study on my own, I discovered that Young Living and doTerra are not the only companies out there with pure, quality essential oils.  I began to distance myself from doTerra (or YL for that matter) and started recommending essential oils in much more general terms, with much more caution.

I had tentatively broached some of my concerns to other IPC’s (independent consultants) and the party-line seems to be “the misinformation comes from independent representatives, not from the company itself.  Therefore, the company cannot be held responsible for what it’s independent representatives say.”  At first, I accepted that.  I have friends who are IPCs who have made the effort to truly educate themselves and who try to stem the tide of misinformation.  However, the more I think about it, the more frustrated I get at that answer.  The MLM companies are structured to put those with little information in a position of “teaching” others about essential oils.  IPCs are rewarded for signing up a large number of people and convincing those people to buy a large amount of essential oil each month.  That is where the priority is.  People are not rewarded for getting the most factual information out there.  There is much money to be made in convincing the public that your brand of essential oil is the only pure brand.  There is much money to be made in encouraging heavy ingestion of oils and heavy use of neat (undiluted) oils.

I am continuing to research essential oils.  I read everything I can get my hands on and I have enrolled in a professional aromatherapy course through an independent company that has no financial interest in selling essential oils.  One thing that strikes me as interesting is that in all of the books I have read, despite the fact that they proclaim themselves world-wide authorities in the field, there is no mention of Gary Young or David Hill.  No mention of what are supposedly the top quality oils in the world.  I wonder why that is?


It’s All About Function

I hear the comments all the time: “She says every baby has tongue tie and sends them off for surgery.” “Lactation consultants just say there is a tongue tie when they don’t know how to fix the latch.” “I asked my doctor if my baby was tongue tied but he said since she can stick her tongue out, she is not tongue tied.” “Tongue tie is just a breastfeeding issue. You need to just tough it out or quit breastfeeding. Don’t put your baby through that procedure just so you can breastfeed.”

I could go on and on and on. The reality is that tongue tie is not just a breastfeeding issue. A tongue tie, by definition, restricts normal tongue function. Undiagnosed tongue tie may result in difficulty swallowing, dental issues, reflux, digestive disorders, sleep apnea, speech issues, or failure to thrive. The tongue needs to move in numerous ways to function well – it not only needs to extend past the lips, it needs to lift (both the tip and the back of the tongue), it needs to move in a smooth wave-like motion and it needs to be able to move side to side in the mouth. Think about the things your tongue does just while eating – it draws food into the mouth, it moves food to the jaw for chewing, it mashes it against the roof of the mouth (palate) and then it moves in a wave to carry food to the back of the mouth for swallowing, helping to close off the airway so that you don’t aspirate or choke. After you have eaten, your tongue moves all around in your mouth, freeing food that is trapped in or between the teeth. If there is tongue tie, it will affect tongue function to varying degrees. Sometimes the frenulum is thin and stretchy and barely affects function. In this case, a release (sometimes called a clip) may not be necessary. Sometimes the frenulum is thick or very tight, preventing the tongue from moving well at all. In this case, releasing the frenulum early may prevent many on-going issues. Breastfeeding is not the only thing tongue tie affects, it is just the first thing. The following is the unedited story of one mom and baby caught up in the controversy of whether or not tongue tie should be treated:

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

When I learned I was pregnant with my second child, one of the things I was most excited about was the nursing relationship. My daughter, A, was nearly two and was slowly but surely weaning herself. Though I was ready for it to be over with her, I missed the hours of cuddling a sweet, squishy baby while she ate til her heart’s content and dozed blissfully on my chest. Little did I know I would only get a few weeks of this precious time and I would be fighting to nourish my baby at all.


When my first child was born, she had a fairly moderate tongue and lip tie. Encouraged by our midwife to get it cut via a laser frenectomy, her ties were corrected when she was two weeks old. Previously, the pain had been incredible for me when she latched, she had a very hard time transferring the milk, and she was losing weight. Her latched improved immediately with the lasering and the pain vanished. Aside from an occasional bought of thrush, our troubles were behind us. So, armed with the knowledge of latches, positions, shields, nipple creams, and persistence, I was confident that nursing with my new child would be a cinch. I was prepared for the pain.
During my pregnancy with H, I began to hear more and more talk of how maybe not all ties should be lasered. Mothers were being encouraged to work through the ties.  If they had the tenacity to do all things “naturally” it would be better for the baby. I heard the comment quite a few times that frenectomies were the “easy way out” and it was overdone. Even our pediatrician discouraged tongue tie corrections and said they usually just fix themselves. I began to doubt my decision to correct A’s mouth as an infant and wondered if maybe we could have worked through it. Maybe I gave her unnecessary pain for my own comfort. I guess you could say I drank the kool aid. So, when H was born and had the ties I had expected her to have like her sister I was faced with a hard decision. Her lip was considerably worse than A’s had been and couldn’t fold up at all. Her tongue tie was extremely posterior but seemed to have good movement. My husband and I decided to at least still consult with Dr. Oser, the same dentist who had corrected A’s ties.
In the week before H was seen, the pain of nursing was off the charts. Thankfully I was armed with oils and nipple creams to deal with the blisters, bleeding, and raw skin. Despite being adjusted by our chiropractor mere hours after her birth and once more a few days later, my newborn seemed to also have extreme trouble turning her head and opening her jaw very wide. I put this off as just a result of her very quick birth (only twenty minutes of pushing and four hours labor total) and that her shoulders got stuck since she was a ten pound baby. Only months later did the connection to her ties make itself obvious.
During our consult with Dr. Oser, we talked for nearly half an hour before deciding to clip H’s lip but to leave her tongue. The doctor said she seemed to have enough flexibility if I wanted to leave it and he wouldn’t push me. I didn’t want her to deal with the recovery pain. I regret my decision every day.  Every. Day.
H healed well and quickly after her lip clip and at first seemed to be fine. Her latch was a little better and I wasn’t in anymore pain. But as the weeks went by, it began to become clear that something was off. She was gaining weight well and my supply was great but I constantly had to get her adjusted by our family chiropractor and she was beginning to refuse to nurse on my right breast unless I held her a specific way with absolutely no pressure on her neck and not having to turn her head at all. It progressively got worse and worse until she refused to eat at all. For about a week, the first couple days after her chiropractic adjustment she would be okay and nurse well but just reverted right back after a little time. After a while, not even adjustments helped any longer. She was nearly three months now and as my milk regulated, my supply began to drop. H just couldn’t keep it up with her nursing refusal and the pump I had couldn’t keep up either. I had begun to see a second chiropractor just to keep H in constant alignment.  This chiropractor suggested a few sessions of craniosacral therapy. Since H was born so quickly and was so large, her cranial plates didn’t have time to slowly adjust in the birth canal and it was causing pressure, as well as tension in her neck and shoulders. So, we tightened the belt on our budget a little more and began CS therapy.
As with chiropractic care, the therapy at first helped incredibly and my baby seemed to be a bit more herself. But, within a couple days she went right back to screaming whenever it was time to nurse. By this point, I could only feed her if she was asleep or half asleep, bouncing on a yoga ball, pulling out her pacifier quickly and stuffing in a nipple before she could realize what was going on. Sometimes not even that worked and she would choke and cough once milk entered her mouth. I began to realize she was just getting worse and could barely swallow without gagging or crying in pain. Eating hurt my baby. She was losing weight and even the desperate times I fed her bottles, she still wasn’t thrilled about eating and fought the food. She began to cry when she smelled milk, or saw my bare breast, scared that she would hurt again.
One day after a complete melt down, I sobbed my heartbreak, frustrations and confusion to a group of my mom friends. Along with the much needed sympathy, love and prayers I received, it was also pointed out that maybe there was a link with the tension in her little body to the tongue tie we had decided not to clip. A good friend had been on a similar journey with her son, his severe tongue tie caused so much residual tension in his jaw and mouth that even after it was released, he had trouble nursing. Despite physical therapy and chiropractic care, he eventually refused the breast all together, and began to associate it with pain. Just as H was beginning to do. Knowing that even if I wanted to go back to Dr Oser to now clip her tongue tie I couldn’t, devastated me. I didn’t have the funds. With only my husband working, we were struggling already to keep up with H’s therapies. I was faced with the fact that I may have very well completely ruined my nursing relationship with my infant because I chose to believe the new rumblings that frenectomies were unnecessary and overdone. And now my child was in constant pain. Even making the decision to go to purely bottles and pumping or formula would only be putting a band aid on a broken leg. And then good Karma unexpectedly embraced me.
When I was pumping for my older daughter, I had an abundant supply and pumped more milk at work than my daughter could drink. Over the course of a year, I donated hundreds of ounces to my friend who’s son had refused the breast. It was a simple act of empathy for a fellow mother, and I never expected it to help me so much two years later. My friend approached me and asked that we let her pay for H’s frenectomy as thanks for all the milk I had donated. Words cannot express the gratitude I felt and I was filled with hope.
I made an appointment with Dr Oser, but also decided to consult with a highly spoken of LC in my area. Mellanie graciously worked me into her schedule just a few days later and I anticipated the visit with both fear and hope. What if the news was good and H could one day nurse well again? What if it was bad and I was told that it was too late and while we could fix the physical problem, she would never nurse without a fight?

Mellanie looked her over and confirmed that H had a very thick and posterior tie. All flexibility she had had at first was gone and her tongue was all but glued to the bottom of her mouth. When she tried to swallow, it humped up in the back and explained the sensation of odd tickling I felt when she suckled. After watching her eat once I finally got her to latch, listening to her drink (and choke), and feeling along her mouth and jaw, she confirmed that if I didn’t correct the tie it wouldn’t matter how much therapy we did. The tension caused by the tie would come back again and again, it wasn’t being released all of the way. After Mellanie gave me a list of homeopathics to dissolve into water, tips on the exercises I would have to do with the wound, and a link for suck training, I was a bit more optimistic and confident about H’s impending appointment. Even if this caused H to even more shy away from the breast, at least now she wouldn’t be in pain. She wouldn’t cry every time she swallowed a mouthful of milk.
After H was brought back to us after her frenectomy, Dr Oser made the comment that this was one of the very worst grade 4 ties he had ever seen, so thick and webbed out. Much to our surprise, H didn’t seem to be in hardly any pain. She didn’t seem to need the Motrin or the homeopathic mixture I made. She even eagerly ate once we got home. It seemed that she felt more relief than pain. As I had steeled myself for a complete refusal of the breast, I never felt such a sense of overwhelming relief. Unfortunately not all nursing sessions would be this easy as our journey continued.

Stress consumed both my child and I and began to leak out to touch my husband and older child.  My whole day, every day, revolved around when and how I could feed H. The room needed to be dark and quiet, I needed the yoga ball to calm her, or I needed to catch her sleeping and get her to dream eat. Fear of not being able to feed her kept me from leaving the house for more than an hour and prevented me from seeing family and friends unless they came to me. Even then, there were times that despite all efforts to nurse, I had to pump and feed H a bottle. The fear of the breast was still there and the frustrations she felt from me weren’t helping. I decided to let go. If within 15 minutes I couldn’t get H to latch and nurse, I would pump and give a bottle. I would bring a bottle when we went out and not confine my family to the house. I accepted that my sweet daughter may very well never happily nurse. Never look to nursing for comfort and safety, as my first child did. I would provide breast milk for as long as I could, but if I eventually needed to provide formula instead, I would do it knowing I had done everything I could.
I continued with CS therapy for a few more weeks and continued seeing our chiropractor twice weekly, and very slowly, I saw my little girl begin to get better. The number of bottles I had to offer began to drop. Soon she began to refuse them altogether. I learned how to coax her to the breast instead of having to only trick her, and slowly taught her that eating was no longer scary. She wouldn’t gag and choke every time she got a mouthful of milk. It no longer hurt to turn her head and snuggle up to eat, or nurse herself to sleep. Now at six months, we have endured over three months of this journey and I know it still isn’t over. On a few rare occasions, H has comfort nursed, but it isn’t the norm. Sometimes she will start nursing without being sleepy or asleep and sometimes we have sweet moments where she will pet my cheek or arm, but the yoga ball is still an essential piece of furniture in our house for at least half the sessions. My sweet baby is miles better than she was, but this still isn’t the happy, easy breastfeeding life I had dreamed of and looked forward to. But its worth it, and I still fight for it every day and cherish the happy sessions we have.
Of all journeys in my life, this is by far the hardest I have ever done. It breaks my heart knowing that I am not the only mom by far that has and will face this hard journey. I learned from Mellanie, my LC, that my story is not unheard of, or even unusual. H fit the pattern of posterior tie perfectly, and many moms who are faced with this are shamed to think its their fault. They feel like they have to work through it and if they give up then they didn’t try hard enough. Not only are posterior tongue ties frequently overlooked, but mothers are being encouraged to not cut them. I encourage every mother to research ties, frenectomies, and body work like CranioSacral therapy and chiropractic care. Don’t let any doctor, peer, or another mother shame you or make you feel guilty for considering the quick and simple surgery to correct your baby’s mouth. Through all of this, I hold onto the hope that my and H’s story will help others to know they are not alone and there is a chance. If my stiff, sore, and fear filled baby girl can come around to wanting to eat once more and snuggle at her mother’s chest, there is hope for all tongue tied babies. Speak of these therapies and ties, let everyone know the truth and the hard journeys that I and other mothers have been on. Help improve the breastfeeding world.


It’s Time For a Resurrection

My blog has been sorely neglected over the last year as I have been busy with my practice and my family.  I have so many things bouncing around in  my head thouhg that I want to share that I am resurrecting the blog and am committed to carving out a little time to write.  Stay tuned for new content coming soon!