I recently had my third son this past summer and was looking forward to breastfeeding him just like I breastfed my other two sons. Having had wonderful breastfeeding experiences with my other two boys, I was quite surprised when I experienced pain while breastfeeding with this baby. I knew that the latch looked right from the outside, but something was not right if there was pain. Jane Bradshaw, my wonderful International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and friend, always told everyone that breastfeeding should never hurt, so I started investigating other possibilities. I noticed that my baby seemed to eat all the time with hardly a break. I would sit for two hours at a time on the couch with a baby that seemed to eat and eat and eat and not feel satisfied. He would sleep a bit and then wake up hungry again. He was getting milk, but it seemed to take him so long to get it. That in combination with the pain was wearing down this mommy quick. So I made an appointment with Jane to do a weight check and a breastfeeding snapshot to see exactly how much milk he was getting in a feeding and also have her look at his latch to make sure I was not missing any problem areas.
The first thing Jane checked was his tongue. She noticed that he did not stick his tongue out of his mouth and it did not rise very high when he cried. These were two very good signs of the possibility of a tongue-tie in combination with the breast pain and long feedings. Sometimes you can see the frenulum visually, but in my son’s case he had a very deep rooted tongue-tie that was not easily seen until the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist found it underneath the web-like tissue. Even my son’s doctor did not see the tongue-tie because it was one that was not commonly seen with an initial look in the mouth. Thankfully he was getting enough milk to gain weight, but I had to work harder with pumping and compressions to get all the milk to him in a feeding (not to mention the pain I was feeling!). Jane suggested a visit to the Ear Nose and Throat Specialist in Lynchburg, VA, Dr. Andrea Kittrell. I made an appointment and had the procedure done that day.
No one likes to see their baby in pain and worries about having any kind of procedure done that would cause it. My son cried a little when he came back to the room from the procedure, but the pain afterwards was very minimal. He breastfed immediately and I felt a difference right away! No pain from nursing at all, right there at the doctor’s office. Jane gave me some post-procedure exercises to do with him to help him learn to use his tongue better, and he was soon sticking out his tongue with gusto and enjoying the new-found freedom to move his tongue. Feedings improved dramatically and there was NO pain.
Jane told me that tongue-ties are very common, and most are undiagnosed because moms give up breastfeeding because of the pain. Many people live with the pain of breastfeeding and just assume that it is normal and something to have to struggle through in order to give your baby the best food, breastmilk. I think of many friends and family members who pushed through with breastfeeding and eventually gave up around six months because it hurt too much or the baby was not gaining enough weight because they thought they didn’t have enough milk. I agree with Jane, it’s not supposed to hurt! I wish they would have gone to an IBCLC and got a solution to ease their pain so that they could enjoy the incredible bonding experience of breastfeeding their baby for as long as possible, not to mention the tremendous benefits of breastmilk for their baby. If you have pain from breastfeeding, make an appointment with Jane Bradshaw or another IBCLC in your area today to find relief.
- Joy Rhodes