Two years ago I was going through one of the hardest times of my life. My newborn baby boy was breast feeding around the clock but still screaming in hunger. I had no idea as a new mum how long each breast feeding session was supposed to last but an hour and a half seemed way too long just to get up an hour or two later and do it all again. Something wasn’t right. On day 10 I began mix feeding (breast/formula) Charlie after a midnight trip to the ER uncovered he was losing quite a bit of weight. When I wasn’t feeding, pumping, making and cleaning bottles I was holding him; because every time I put him down he would wake up crying in pain. After a few weeks of detective work, I also discovered that my son had silent reflux. While he was struggling to feed and get enough milk, I was struggling with prescription pills, herbal concoctions and pumping to make more milk. While he was waking from the pain of reflux I was doing everything I could to get us both a decent amount of sleep. Eventually the severe sleep deprivation resulted in severe anxiety which then resulted in even less sleep – a catch 22.
When my son was 10 months old I wrote an article for Birth Matters magazine telling my story of Post Natal Anxiety and what got me there, and how I pulled myself out of it. I read out the magazine article in this (free) 11 minute podcast , that you can listen to on your smart phones in your car or kitchen, but here’s a very short run down of that:
When my son was 5 weeks I called his paediatrician here in Newcastle to ask about posterior tongue tie. He told me he had never heard of it and asked if I got the information I had from an “actual medical website.” I felt belittled and dismissed. A couple days went by and we ran into him when we were at the hospital for another unrelated issue. I called out to him, explained who I was. He remembered the phone call and took a quick look in Charlie’s mouth for me. He told me Charlie was not tongue tied. There was no reason to think that was the reason for his breastfeeding difficulties, and that my supply was the issue. By that point my supply probably had decreased because my son couldn’t latch properly to keep it up. A simple case of supply and demand.
By 12 weeks we were holidaying in Canada and went to see one of the best tongue tie specialists there, who instantly confirmed that not only did my son have a serious posterior tie but also a severe lip tie. The lip tie prevented him from being able to have a strong latch. We spent an exorbitant amount of money to have his ties laser cut there. Before flying back we spent an hour with a lactation consultant when Charlie refused the breast for the first week after the procedure. She got him back on the breast but he still preferred the bottle over breast feeding. Every feeding session was very hard work.
I still believe the number one reason I experienced PNA was because my son’s tongue and lip ties went undiagnosed for too long and led to a string of other issues. I believe if the ties had been corrected in the early weeks I wouldn’t have had the breastfeeding battle that I did.
I am finally ready to write that paediatrician and explain to him the consequences that his own ignorance and arrogance had on me and my son. I can only hope that maybe it will help him become more aware of the issue of ties, and perhaps even lead him to educate himself further on the matter; therefore preventing women from struggling with their babies like I have.
You were my son’s assigned paediatrician at the hospital after he was born in June 2013. I have enclosed a copy of a magazine feature article I wrote when my son was 10 months telling the story of my struggle with post natal depression (and anxiety) caused by a series of unfortunate issues, such as breast feeding my son despite my every effort. One of those efforts included contacting you regarding my suspicion that my son had posterior tongue tie. We spoke on the phone when my son was 5 weeks old. You told me you’d never heard of posterior tongue tie, and after making sure you heard me right you dismissed me by asking if I had received my information from an actual medical website. Instead of looking into it further yourself, or referring me onto a specialist in tongue tie, you left the conversational at that. A few days later I ran into you in the hospital with my baby as I waited in the lounge area for an unrelated issue with a different Dr. You looked like you were about to begin your rounds but came over when I greeted you. I reminded you of our phone conversation and you had a quick look in my son’s mouth. You told me he had no tie, and that the issue must be solely with my supply.
As a new mum I trusted you, the professional who saw babies every working day. I wish now I had instead trusted my own instinct, research, and eyes on this subject. I didn’t and another extremely hard and gruelling 7 weeks passed until we were in Canada visiting family. By then, my son was 12 weeks old and breastfeeding had reached it’s climax of difficulty. My sister was also a breastfeeding mother and offered to try and feed my son when she saw him rejecting me during a feed. My son would not breastfeed from her either. It was then that she looked in his mouth and asked me if I’d ever had him checked for posterior tongue tie. I shared the story with her and then she recommended I see one of Canada’s top specialists in this area, a Dr who sees two babies for laser frenectomies a day.
I called Dr Jimmy Chan and they were able to fit us in right away after we explained we were visiting from Australia. In the appointment his assistant was able to immediately identify and confirm that Charlie not only had a serious posterior tongue tie, he also had a severe lip tie – which meant he was incapable of opening his mouth wide enough to latch properly. Because we were overseas we paid a huge amount to have the procedure done, followed by 2 weeks of agonising “stretches” on the cut areas in the hope that this would be the solution. However, it was too late for us. Our son had given up the will to feed from the breast any longer than 1-2 minutes at a time, even with the help of a lactation expert. I know, and the specialist also felt, that if Charlie had had a frenectomy at 5 weeks instead of 12 weeks there would have been a great possibility of being successful at exclusively breastfeeding; and even more chance of success had the procedure been done closer to his birth.
It’s taken me a long time to be able to write this letter to you. I’m hoping this letter brings a new level of awareness about this issue. I hope you will take this letter seriously enough to choose to educate yourself further on the topic of tongue and lip ties, and research actual medical websites to gain more information to pass on to your future patients. From there, my ultimate desire would be for you to use the preventative method of checking newborn babies for posterior tongue tie and lip ties in your hospital rounds. I hope the next time a new mother comes to you with an issue that you won’t be so quick to dismiss her.
“To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.” – Confucius
Peachy Keen Mumma, also known as Jess, is a 32 year old Mother of one, sibling of eight, and big sister of five. A Canadian, Ecuadorian, Australian and American, she loves sharing recipes, reviews, and some fun life things along the way. Did we mention we love her sense of humor too?
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