Pen Pal: Tongue Tie Trauma
We are so excited to introduce our first tongue tie feature by Charlotte aka Musing Mum about her experience with her daughter Emily. We felt her story was the perfect start to our Mayday awareness campaign on tongue tie.
It’s amazing how a little bit of skin under a baby’s tongue can cause so many problems. I gave birth to my daughter 18 months ago and I am still happily breastfeeding. However, our breastfeeding journey has been incredibly difficult. We went through nearly three months of hell because my daughter’s tongue tie went undetected.
In the first few days after birth, breastfeeding wasn’t ‘clicking’ for us. I was in absolute agony, my baby lost 7% of her birth weight in the first two nights. No matter how much she fed she wasn’t gaining. I saw countless people for support; midwives, breastfeeding support officers, GPs, health visitors and breastfeeding support groups, begging them for anything that might help me reduce the pain and ensure my daughter maintained a healthy weight.
Most had a quick look in my baby’s mouth, saw nothing that gave them any concern and spent the rest of the time with me working on different feeding positions. I lost count of how many times people told me; “you’re probably not getting the latch/hold right” and this was likely the cause of my distress. It began to drive me insane. I was following all the advice on a ‘correct hold’ but no matter what, feeding felt like someone was constantly and sadistically tattooing on my nipples!
I felt like a failure. The one thing my body was supposed to be able to do naturally, and I was completely incapable of getting it right.
Finally, around eight weeks in, a chance conversation with a new midwife at a breastfeeding clinic provided some hope. “The end of her tongue is heart-shaped, I’m sure this baby has some sort of posterior tongue-tie.” It was the first time anyone had suggested this might be the cause of our problems. At this point however, the baby was too old for a midwife to correct it, so I was referred to a Paediatric Ear Nose and Throat Consultant.
My appointment lasted two minutes. The consultant took one cursory look in my baby’s mouth and said “There’s no tie here, why don’t you try working on some positioning techniques?” I suggested a midwife had thought there was a posterior tie. He rolled his eyes and said “there’s no such thing”. In that moment, it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. All I ever wanted to do was breastfeed my baby, and after weeks of intense pain, I thought I’d finally found the reason for the trauma but I was back to square one.
I knew this wasn’t just a positioning or latch issue, so I made the decision to see a private midwife who was considered locally to be a tongue-tie expert. It was expensive, but my last shot.
At the appointment, the midwife examined my baby and diagnosed a 70% restriction posterior tongue-tie. She corrected it there and then – a swift procedure to snip the tight connecting skin. I was terrified. My baby didn’t even cry!
The results were incredible. The damage to my nipples was so severe it took a few days for the pain to subside. But what I did notice straight away was our feeding time was halved to 30 minute feeds. Within a week, her weight shot up and continued to steadily climb.
I was absolutely elated. After nearly 12 weeks of constant worry and living with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, I was finally able to enjoy feeding, and being a mum.
What struck me in the months following was: a) There was nowhere near enough training and understanding within my local NHS on tongue-tie, we should not have been misdiagnosed by so many people; and b) it appears to be more common than you think. I have four friends in my ‘circle of mums’ that had babies with tongue ties missed at birth. All of these women found this experience incredibly upsetting, exhausting and painful.
If there was more awareness and understanding around this issue, many more women would be able to continue to breastfeed, and do so without the intense and unnecessary pain.
Thank you Charlotte for sharing this with us. You can follow Musing Mum on Facebook Instagram or her blog page. Once all our tongue tie tales are told, we will collate the tips for teats and tits alike. In the meantime if you have any words of wisdom on the tip of your tongue, then we would love to hear Your Voice.