Sunday, May 6, 2018

When Every Baby has a Tongue Tie (Defect)

"Dear Guggie,


You're welcome to share my story if you wish. I just can't. I'm too ashamed. It's everywhere, I can't escape it. It's traveled through the mainstream to gentle and attachment parents. And it's not just first time mums at risk, it's literally every single mother out there. I was going to post on your discussion about tongue tie but I'm still coming to terms with it and it still brings up a lot of trauma for me. But I wanted to speak up. These people promoting tongue tie cutting are not just medical professionals. They are also other breastfeeding mothers pressuring vulnerable mothers.


When I had my third baby back in 2016, he was born unexpectedly at 34 weeks. He spent over a month in hospital with breathing and feeding issues. He was tube-fed and then later EBM (exclusive breastmilk) bottle-fed. I agreed to that because it would get him home sooner. I had already breastfed my older girls both to 3 years each. I was experienced!

So when Dane came home I started weaning him onto the breast. I was having a very difficult time. He didn't know what to do so I found a breastfeeding page on Facebook and asked for help. From the minute I started that post there were comments such as, "Oh, look how little his lips are, it must be a tongue tie." "Fussing at the breast? Yep, he's got to be tied." "He has reflux? Oh yes, he's tongue tied." I had never heard of this tongue tie thing before. My two eldest were born in '05 and '08. It was a 7 year gap!

I hung in there, persevering and working to keep our breastfeeding relationship. I did skin to skin, left him in charge and he eventually latched. It only took three days after that for the nipple damage to set in so I went back for more advice. Once again, I was flooded with responses that he had a tongue tie.


At the time, I was pumping around the clock. It was the norm for me because he was a NICU babe. But, not only was it taking its toll on my mental health, I was also getting less and less milk each pumping session. My freezer stash was rapidly declining. The hospital wanted nothing to do with our situation, so once again I asked for help online. The responses: "No it's not because he was bottle/tube fed for 6 weeks." "His mouth is small because he has oral ties and not because he is 4 pounds." "The reflux isn't because he is a preterm baby being made to drink 150ml." (The specialist had him on that amount.)

The women online gave me a list of symptoms and he met them all. They then gave me a list of providers in my area. So of course, what did I think I had to do next?! My freezer stash was gone, it was too painful to nurse at the breast, and I had no support besides these so-called gentle breastfeeding mothers. I made the appointment to take my baby to a professional for tongue tie diagnosis.

Of course, the professional I went to diagnosed him with lip, tongue, and cheek ties. As we sat in the waiting room, waiting for our turn, all I could hear was this ungodly scream from another baby. Everything inside me was telling me to get the hell out of there. But I didn't. They wrapped him and splayed him on my partner so my partner could bear hug him to restrain him. I asked for my baby to be numbed but they assured me he wouldn't feel a thing.

The second it started, he let out a scream. Not a normal baby cry, not even a cry of pain. This was something I had never heard as a mother before. I will never get the smell of the burning flesh out of my head. I was standing there while my precious baby was screaming. I asked the professional to stop. He didn't respond. It took me shouting, "Get your fucking hands off my baby," and reaching for him to listen to me. I picked my baby up and ran out of the room, and you know what I found when I unwrapped my pre-term, 7 pound, 3 month old baby? I found blood spots under his skin, on his cheeks, and his arms. And popped blood vessels in his eyes. By then, he was pale, breathing very fast, and had gone limp. He was in shock!

Dane fell asleep right after the partial surgery.

I still don't know why I didn't listen to my gut but I am glad he only endured the beginning of it, on his lip. There was no way in hell he should've endured the whole thing, nor was I doing those stretches on his tongue that they prescribe afterwards.

The thing is, despite our rough start, I stayed determined to breastfeed him until he was 13 months old. At that point, I fell pregnant and my milk dried up. His issues were never tie related despite what I was pressured into feeling and doing. Fast forward to my next child. I posted online, "Does this look like thrush? I have one very sore nipple." The immediate flood of responses included, "No, those are blisters, a sign of being tongue tied...get that sorted quickly" And I easily had 20 mothers agreeing that it was a tongue tie. This time, I went to the doctor, received some drops for yeast, and treated it successfully."

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