Breastfeeding with a Lip or Tongue Tie

Before and directly after my daughters lip revision

Both of my babies being born with lip AND tongue ties is one of the things I was least prepared for in motherhood. I knew nothing about how common these were, or what a serious problem they impose on your attempts to breastfeed. I want to take a moment to address all the mamas out there just finding out their babies struggle with this, or mamas-to-be that should be informed on potential breastfeeding obstacles like this!

A lip and tongue tie are conditions that cause the skin of the upper lip and underneath the tongue to have limited movement.

I knew my first baby had troubles latching but I didn’t know what those reasons were until she was 5 months old and diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie. Her lip was much more severe than her tongue so we made the decision to revise it, and she breastfed perfectly after that!

If I could go back in time and have knowledge of this problem, it could have saved us months of stress, feedings with a nipple shield, and the gradual decline in weight my baby had from not eating well enough.

The second time around our tongue tied girl is a little bit different and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

We have (for now) decided not to revise our second daughter’s tongue tie.

Our reasons for this decision are that a) this is procedure that comes with pain and potential risks and b) she is breastfeeding and gaining weight so its affect on her is not severe.

So what are some things that can help if this is a decision you’ve made? Here are a few of the things that have really helped me in being successful while breastfeeding my lip and tongue tied baby.

  1. Become familiar with what a perfect latch is, and aware of the latch your baby is receiving at every feed. Most moms can just put their baby near their chest and let the baby do all the work because latching is not an issue for them. But with a lip/tongue tied baby YOU will have to help do that work. A good latch involves a wide open mouth, flanged out lips, and their chin against you. This perfect latch will not come naturally to your baby. This is of course the single greatest obstacle of a lip/tongue tied baby. Therefore, it is extremely important that you become familiar with a good latch and get as close as possible to it at every feeding.
  2. Do not be afraid to pull baby off and reattempt the latch when something is off. A bad latch can lead to a vast array of problems such as, pain or chapping of your nipples and too much air intake creating gas bubbles for your baby. That is why if baby is showing signs of a bad latch- do not be afraid to immediately remove them and reattach. A few signs of a bad latch- milk leaking, baby making a clicking noise, or no swallowing noise.
  3. Combat the milk leakage with extra burp cloths. Sometimes your baby may need a little extra help in getting their latch right. You may be soaking your bra with the milk dripping out in between that latching/unlatching and repositioning. For this reason I bring two burp cloths with me to every feeding- one to tuck into my bra underneath baby, and one to actually burp her on.
  4. Find the angle your baby finds easiest. My first girl did best with her latch the more perpendicular she was to me. I tried to cradle her in more of a sitting on my lap position to encourage the good latch she gets this way. So try moving around, try different holds or positions and use the support of a nursing pillow!
  5. Keep up your milk supply! A low supply can mean a slow let down of milk. While your baby is waiting for let down, their latch can become shallow and they may pull away getting frustrated. Your baby’s lip/tongue tie is already frustrating in their attempts to eat. Attempting to get a frustrated baby to latch is much more difficult than a relaxed baby. Make the milk more abundant and easily accessible to them so they don’t have to work harder than they already have to for it!

Here is a link to some really genuinely good tasting lactation cookies that I used to help boost my supply, for any mamas in need of a boost!

Hang in there mamas! If breastfeeding your lip/tongue tied baby is your goal, don’t give up. You aren’t alone in this and you can do it!

Seasons Of Life With Your Baby

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. More specifically, the way us moms struggle with both wanting the hard times in our life with a newborn to pass, and feeling emotional as soon as that time is over. I define a season of time with your baby as a memorable period of time that is marked in your memory with a few key struggles or milestones. It starts off with the pregnancy season, and man is that a long one. For me, my key seasons from there break down to: pregnancy, birth-6 weeks, 6 weeks-3 months, 3-6 months, and 6-8 months. My baby girl is only 8 months, and I am so glad to have so many seasons of life with her ahead of me. But I want to talk today about the ones already gone by.

I’ve realized that the comforting advice most people have given me on my constant struggles with my very difficult little girl is, “This too shall pass.” And maybe once or twice I did find comfort in that. Until I realized that wishing this season away will only bring on a new one with new challenges, ones that I again have no idea how to conquer. Because that’s what motherhood is. Thinking we can’t possibly conquer what’s in front of us each day, and somehow with the love of our babies we make it through.

As I lay here in between breastfeedings feeling the pain of mastitis in my body with my little babe sleeping on my chest, I know that there will be a day when I’ll look back on this time with nostalgia. Breastfeeding has somehow turned out to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but the reason I keep doing it is the same reason I know I will long for it when it’s over- the unbreakable bond between me and my baby girl. As I feel the end of our breastfeeding journey getting closer everyday, I’ve realized how much importance moms need to place on being happy and present in whichever season we’re currently in.
I hear you, mom who can’t remember her last full night of sleep, won’t it be nice when your baby doesn’t need you as much anymore? Will you find yourself watching your growing child wishing they’d curl up in your arms late in the night to be comforted back to sleep? I’m writing this because with all my challenges so far, I’ve been that mom. That mom who’s just waiting for this season to be over. But I cannot waste anymore of my precious time with my baby having that attitude.

I’m going to use this space below to journal about each season I’ve had with Ellie. So many moms I’ve talked to, including my own, just can’t remember all the little things that happened to them and their babies at the beginning. So I encourage you, whatever stage you are at in life take time today to think about the parts of it you will miss when they are gone. Do not dwell on the challenges your child is giving you in this season but rather, embrace them. Take some time out of your day today to appreciate your child for everyhing that they are right now. And if you’ve found your seasons passing too quickly, find the time to journal about yours too. That way even when a season has passed, you will always have memory of it. Here are my seasons so far.

 

Pregnancy



My pregnancy was not planned, but not unwelcome. I took the pregnancy test like I had a couple other times since getting married, knowing it would come out negative, but-UM IS THAT POSITIVE? I was almost numb to it initially, not knowing exactly what this change would mean for me and my husband or what to expect from it in anyway. But once my mind had been wrapped around it I was in full-on mom mode. They say a woman becomes a mother when they find out they are pregnant, and a man becomes a father once the baby is born. For us that saying was 100% true. Looking back I can tell I was a bit overboard as a pregnant woman (foreshadowing of what kind of mother I’d become.) I didn’t eat, or do, anything that any person had ever said may possibly affect my unborn baby negatively in any way, shape, or form. Recently, my husband laughed as I ran across the room picked up and threw our dog in the back yard, screaming at her for nipping at the baby. “Don’t mess with mama bear.” He said.

Well that statement has really been true of me since the beginning of my pregnancy. This overprotective quality can be great in most moms, but as a woman with anxiety I struggled through every minute of every day of my pregnancy. I told myself that she was too good to be true, I almost never was able to visualize actually getting to hold her in my arms. I spent my maternity leave days crying in her rocking chair, begging her to kick me and tell me she was okay in there. My anxiety while pregnant nearly crippled me, mostly because of impossibly hard personal life situations. I honestly thought I would lose her every single day.

Although my paranoia was extreme it really did prepare for what was to come, constant worry over another human being. I’ve worried for her since long before she was born, and now that I know her I know it will never stop for me. And I am perfectly happy with that.

My pregnancy continued to make me think I would never get to hold her as it dragged on and on. Until I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant when Elliana Reign was finally born at almost 10 pounds. (That last 8 days felt longer than the entire rest of the pregnancy!)

My only happiness in the pregnancy season was my ultrasounds and checkups. Facing my constant worry and fears and drowning them out in the sweet melodic sound of her strong little heart beating and the sight of her squishy little face and pouty lips in the 3D images.

 

Birth- 6 weeks



This season was marked by trying to breastfeed, trying to taking care of her while I recovered my pummeled body, and long, long baby naps. Aside from my own pain and recovery, this was really an easy time with her. Thinking back on how much my newborn slept really makes me miss that time! She woke at night every 2 hours to breastfeed and stayed the same during the day. My only real problem at this time was that the nurses in the hospital gave me a nipple shield to use. I spend the second night in the hospital sobbing crying because Ellie wouldn’t eat. I hadnt slept for 2 full days at this point and then there it was. The nipple shield. This would prove to challenge me for months to come, but we’ll get to that later. Ellie also had jaundice, which can be common. But I had no knowledge of this at all. So as a first time mom this seriously worried me! The adjustment period to sleepless nights wasn’t hard for me because I barely slept as the giant pregnant watermelon person I was. Lots of friends and family organized bringing us meals and I had so much help. This season was one of huge adjustment, and a whole lot of happy!

 

6 weeks-3 months


6 weeks. That’s all it took for my baby to learn to start sleeping through the night! This baby thing was going to be a breeze ,wasn’t it?! Well, just when you think you’ve got them figured out, your baby goes ahead and switches it up on you. But for this time, she was an angel. Sleeping in her rock and play every night from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m. This time period was marked by adorable milestones like cooing noises, trying to hold her head up, trying to sit up, and her first laugh. This is the time we really started seeing her little personality and it was such an incredible blessing. She was gaining weight on track and exclusively breastfeeding. Another golden season, but the one to follow would not be the same story.


3-6 months


Ah, where to begin with this season… My little angel baby got sick at 3 months old it eventually turned into bronchiolitis, which kept me up checking her breathing patterns all night every night. Every night for 3 months I gave her her bath, her eczema cream, her nose drops, used the nose Frieda, put on some baby Vapor rub, cleaned out and ran the humidifier and started the diffuser with essential oils to help her breathe. I ran myself ragged taking care of my sick baby, maybe that was why I got so sick too. After months I was given antibiotics and started to improve. If only it could be that easy for babies.

Around 4 months we slowly started introducing solid foods. She loved it and thought everything besides peas was absolutely delicious.

One night we sat at my parents house, having dinner and letting them help us with the baby. We had given Ellie Zarbee’s cold medicine a few hours before. Suddenly, Ellie projectile vomited her last meal all over my mom. Which wasn’t too unusual, she has done this quite a few times. But this time, it didn’t stop every couple minutes she would start up again getting sick everywhere until she had nothing left. She continued gagging and coughing even when her stomach was completely empty. This is when we called the nurse hotline and they advised us to take her to the children’s hospital to ensure she doesn’t get dehydrated. After a few very scary hours, we did a breastfeeding trial, she kept it down, and we went home. I thought to myself, it had to be the cold medicine, right? Until the next time it happened. Ellie has now had these violetly sick reactions 4 times. Each time I am just as worried as the last time. I spent these 3 months listening to my baby cry,  cough, throw up, and breathe raspy breaths. So you can be sure that when the doctors told Ellie started dropping rapidly on the weight chart that I was more than a little overwhelmed.

I breastfed my baby every two hours for up to 40 minutes each time. I was going crazy spending all of my life stuck on the couch with my nipple shield and boppy. I could supplement her with formula or pumped breastmilk, if only she wouldn’t vehemently refuse every brand, shape, and size of bottles. And I was so nervous to give her solid foods, not knowing what was causing her reactions. I worried over her day and night. I cried myself to sleep watching her, knowing that despite all my efforts I was failing her. This time I lost almost all of my joy as a mother and felt the season I was in would never end. But that’s what seasons do, they end.

 
6-8 months 

I had come to a decision. I couldn’t keep trying my futile methods of nipple shield weaning or offering bottles just to have them refused. My babies weight gain had come to a halt and I had to try something else. So I made the choice to revise Ellie’s lip tie. The doctor let me know I could choose whether to have the procedure done on her lip, her tongue, or both. I’m so happy that I was able to discern as a mother that she needed her upper lip revised more than anything, because she couldn’t flare out her upper lip at all.

We waited for her bronchiolitis to clear before having the procedure, which was probably more terrifying for me than for her! A couple weeks after, her lip was healing up nicely. Suddenly, she decided she didn’t need the nipple shield anymore. It was a game changer for us both. She started eating 5 minutes every two hours instead of 40, and she will now even take the occasional bottle. I’m taking her to allergists and gastroenterologists to determine what her allergies may be. And she is thriving on her weight gain which is all I hoped for on those 3-6 months old nights. We had the blessing of taking her to Disneyland with my entire family.


Seeing her grow and exude happiness in this season has made me appreciate how far she’s come. How far we’ve both come. I’m so thankful we have so much time ahead of us right now. She just started crawling, and I am embracing all the change that brings. I love the season of life she is in right now. And I’ll be just as happy when the next one arrives.