In his first few hours of life, my newborn was casually diagnosed with a tongue tie.
This little tidbit of information was sandwiched between a glowing approval of his perfect head shape and a hearty thumbs up to his lung capacity. If the doctors didn’t bat an eye, I didn’t think I needed to be the slightest bit concerned either. How was I – a total rookie Mom – supposed to know that this tongue tie had the potential to wreak havoc on our lives?
And wreak havoc it did.
Within a couple days of breastfeeding every few hours, my nipples were deeply cracked and bleeding. I bristled every time my perfect baby started rooting around. As he tried (unsuccessfully) to establish a decent latch, he reopened the wounds from a few hours before. It was a brutal cycle with no end in sight.
I sat in the rocker sobbing through the excruciating pain and wondering what in the world I’d gotten myself into. Not exactly a recipe for mother-son bonding.
When I brought up the issue with the nurse practitioner at our first visit to the pediatrician, she dismissed my concerns with some of the classic objections:
“Your nipples just need to toughen up.”
“It’s not a full tongue tie, so it’s not that bad.”
“His mouth is just small – it’ll get better as he grows.”
I wasn’t buying it.
Doctors Are People, Too
Pediatricians are busy people (with an emphasis on the word “people”). They can’t be expected to know absolutely everything, which is why it’s important to take their expertise with a grain of salt and continue to seek other professional opinions when something doesn’t sit right with our mother’s intuition.
For me, that meant trusting a lactation consultant’s opinion. International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants are some of the only professionals trained to examine breastfeeding as it affects both baby and mom, and they also have specialized infant nutrition training.
My LC explained that many pediatricians are not up-to-date with the most recent research about tongue ties and breastfeeding. The medical community didn’t even know how a baby’s tongue worked during breastfeeding until an ultrasound study in 2008. No wonder many doctors are still behind!
It took about 2.5 seconds for the lactation consultant to confirm that my son’s tongue tie was the source of our breastfeeding problems. I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long to seek help! We scheduled an appointment to have that pesky tongue tie clipped, but scheduling delays meant that it was nearly a full month from his birth to the procedure.
By my calculations, that adds up to over 250 dreaded, painful nursing sessions. If I had only known to ask about the procedure while we were still in the hospital, our first month together would have been entirely different.
What I Wish Someone Had Told Me
If you are an expecting mama who plans to breastfeed, have your newborn checked for a tongue tie – and have it revised (or have a revision scheduled) before you leave the hospital, if at all possible.
If you are a new mama struggling with painful breastfeeding, don’t give up! Call a lactation consultant to find out what’s going on. It could be a small problem like improper positioning, or a larger issue like a tongue tie. Solutions are out there. It’s okay to ask for help.
Disclaimer: I am fully aware that this is a medical issue, and I am not a medical professional. A tongue tie revision was life-changing for my family, but I highly encourage you to read up on this issue for yourself. Talk to your pediatrician, and talk to a lactation consultant. You can find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in your area by searching this directory. If you’re local to Cincinnati, you can also check out the Pregnancy & Infant Support Guide for Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Moms.