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Removing the Tie that Bound – A Lip-Tie Tale Part 1

Breastfeeding came easy.  My son breast crawled even with the Pitocin and other drugs used during labor.   He knew how to latch and drink right away.  Our nursing sessions would last 15+ minutes from day one.  He would happily latch to one breast, and then take the other on the next meal.   My milk came in with a vengeance (You can hear about it on my other blog posts).

   I was able to pump up to 2 ounces after feeding my son, before New Year’s - he was born a few days before Christmas.   As you can see from the picture 2 ounces is on the high end of production volume.    In spite of this at the 2 week checkup my son had not returned to birth weight.   Some of that could be contributed to the fact I was on iv-fluids for 20 hours before he was born.  It could be some other unknown reason, or it could be that he was just a slow weight gainer.  We had to come back the following week for a few reasons, one to check if his weight had increased an acceptable amount.  I was lucky that the pediatrician was happy with the fact that my milk had come in, and never suggested supplementing, many are not so lucky.  The following week his weight had increased an acceptable amount.

                Being a first time mom, I hadn’t prepared as much as I should have for breastfeeding.  I knew I wanted to do it, and that I would do it for a really long time.  I grew up with stories of how I was exclusively breastfed, how I would refuse anything but breast, and how my mother would run to the babysitters between classes to feed me.   Both my grandmothers had told me stories of breastfeeding their children.  Since I was born in the early 1980’s and my grandmothers where nursing in the 1950’s and 1960’s having these stories is almost an anomaly.  I was told by my mother that it would hurt, and that I should toughen up my nipples  saying that it would make it less painful when I started.  I hadn’t “toughed up my nipples,” since they were too sensitive, so when it started to hurt by the time my son was 30 hours old, I had just thought it was normal. 

                I woke Christmas morning, cried to my mom how much I hurt.  I had spent the night with a barracuda attached to my breast.   He literally never wanted to unlatch.  I would pull him off after a half hour or so and he would turn his head- his mouth moving like Pac-Man- until he found the nipple again.   I knew nothing of side-lying nursing so I was sitting up all night.  

                During Christmas dinner, I was hiding away in the back room, topless, surrounded by pillows trying to feed my son.   I cried every time he would suck, the only thing to fight the pain was drinking water through a straw.  I would focus on drinking water as fast as I could to ignore the pain.  My sweet husband would refill water for me, always making sure I had at least 2 32 ounce cups ready to go at any time.   This suffering went on for months; the pain was at different levels, sometimes completely gone, other times, overwhelming.  My toes would curl, I would drink water, and my baby would eat. 

                Typically when it was most painful, my son would make a clicking sound.  When I took my lactation training I learned that a clicking sound can indicate something wrong, I wish I had figured that out sooner.  Eventually nursing reached the point that it only hurt on occasion.   I had assumed that we figure it out. 

                I started my lactation training when my son was 10 months, when he was nearly a year we covered lip and tongue ties.  I took one look at the symptoms and knew right away that my son had a lip-tie. 

Some common symptoms that may point to the infant being tongue/ lip tied include: poor latch/inability to latch, sliding off the nipple, fatigue during feeds ,sleepy feeds, poor weight gain, clicking during a feed , maternal nipple pain/damage (can feel like the infant is compressing, chewing, gumming, pinching, scraping the nipple, etc), increased maternal nipple/breast infections, compromised maternal milk supply, dribbling milk at the breast/bottle, digestive issues (increased gassiness, reflux, etc due to extra are being swallowed and poor control of the milk during a swallow), and various other feeding related challenges” Melissa Cole, IBCLC, RLC and Bobby Ghaheri, MD., Portland OR.*  

My son’s bottom lip would flange out like a fish, but his upper lip would curl under.  His toothless mouth would chew me.  He would slide off the breast, fall asleep at the breast, had poor weight gain, and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life.   He was colicky; I would get clogged ducts, both other signs of something amiss.  Fortunately I had a really good supply, so my forceful let down did the work for him.

I knew we needed to get the tie taken care of, because it would affect his pallet shape, and the gap it created between his teeth would not end when he got his adult teeth - another reason he will probably have braces.  Btw even if you are not interested in learning the details of a lip-ties the site has a lot of information for mothers. Dr Brian Palmer DDS specializes in how breastfeeding affects the mouth.

                I called our dentist and asked if they could cut the upper lip tie, they recommend Dr Roth at Southridge Pediatric Dentistry.  We set up an appointment for a couple weeks out and waited.  My husband went to the dentist, with my son, and instructions that we needed to get the tie clipped.  The dentist said that it shouldn’t be a problem at this point.  That it most likely will end up separating on its own in a spectacular display of blood during typical childhood rough housing.  If it was a problem when it came time for braces we would cut it if it was still around.  We were also told to stop night time nursing- which I every adamantly ignored.


Continued ...





Elizabeth Gray CLC's picture

Part 2 is now posted.  Here is the link for your convinience.