Don’t they always say “Mum’s know best”?
Well it is true, we do know best. We may not be able to prove it straight away but when your heart and your gut is telling you something isn’t right, listen to it always and fight to be heard.
Do not take an answer from professionals or well meaning friends and family that their first answer is the right answer!
I learnt this with my second child just after she was born.
If you read my first blog you’ll have noticed I mentioned very briefly about my poorly baby and how I think this is when my anxiety and depression started to rear it’s head again. (Click here to read my first blog)
For the first 3 weeks everything was picture perfect until one day I happened to notice my baby had a lump on her top lip.
I hadn’t seen it before but as I walked towards her laying on my bed, the angle must have been just right so that I could see a very definite lump.
My first thought was that it was another milk blister from sucking only bigger. I tried to move her top lip back to see clearer and that is when I suspected what it was, it was an upper lip tie. I also knew there was a strong possibility that there could be a tongue tie.
A lightbulb moment happened as I was looking at my baby’s face. Could this be the reason breastfeeding was more difficult all of a sudden?
The midwife had observed me feeding and said I was doing very well but I was advised to recheck the latch every now and then so it could be that.
We had been doing so well until the past few days that I doubted it was solely down to latch.
My daughter had been making clicking noises during feeds for quite some time now but wind had also become an issue along with constipation and being sick.
I went straight to the doctors, I hadn’t registered my baby there yet as I had thought when I moved home I would be out of their catchment area but they were fantastic and got me seen within 20 minutes.
The GP took a look and agreed it looked like a lip tie but nothing would be done unless a dentist suggested it. I came away with some gaviscon sachets to help with the wind and sickness but I was breastfeeding and hadn’t given her a bottle yet so they sat in the cupboard unused.
I was waiting for the 6 weeks of breastfeeding to become established before I thought about expressing my milk for bottles.
I persevered with feeding and at the 8 week check with the GP I again brought up the lip tie, suspected tongue tie, the clicking and the wind / vomiting issues but by this time I had more symptoms to add.
My baby was now being sick after every feed and coming up in a rash on her face during feeds which was almost constant by this point.
My daughter had taken to feeding all the time and would pull off in distress clawing at me as if we were wrestling one another.
The GP rang the hospital and spoke to someone as she was concerned with the lack of recent bowel movements. It was suggested that the rash on my baby’s face could be related to the wind issues and lack of bowel movements.
I was advised to go dairy and soya free for 4 weeks to see if it improved anything. I was also given some calcium tablets to make up for the fact my body and my baby wouldn’t be getting the amount of calcium required when breastfeeding.
During this time I also had a visit from a health visitor to do the standard postnatal checks. She observed a feed and made some suggestions for latch and advised I not use the breastfeeding cushion as it was impacting on how I held my baby. She did a quick tongue tie assessment and said there was a possible tie but to try the suggested feeding ideas for a week.
I can see why the latch was being suggested so much, if the latch isn’t right you will most definitely have problems and this is one thing that takes time to learn. It’s the reason you are told to forget the housework and cooking and to set yourself up on the sofa with your essentials located as near to you as possible. Breastfeeding takes time and both you and baby have to work together to learn how to do it.
Breastfeeding for me and my baby was not going well, I expected it to be hard as this is what you hear from your mum friends isn’t it? The cluster feeding, the latch issues etc etc but this…this was awful.
I could feel my moods sinking and it was having an effect on me bonding with my new baby, I felt touched out from feeding her so often and didn’t even want her sat on me. If she fought me I would get worked up and have to hand her over to someone.
My husband was only able to take 2 days leave after my daughter was born due to his work needing him. He was so caught up being newly promoted and working so hard that I felt like he wasn’t here even when he was at home (which wasn’t often) and he couldn’t breastfeed so the battle remained mine. My baby would not settle for anyone but me which made it harder.
My first born was getting it in the neck as I projected my inner emotions onto him.
I shouted a lot and hid in the kitchen trying to cook tea which I had to make from scratch due to having to be dairy and soya free. It is in so much food you would not believe! Wine, you can find milk in wine and tomato flavoured kids crisps! Why? Just why is it even in there?!
I would let my son chill out on his iPad after school (mum guilt) and I bought a high chair you could use from birth so I could have my baby in the kitchen with me.
The amount of times I had to stop what I was doing to settle her again was unbelievable. At least if I had her with me in the kitchen she could see me close by and I could just turn away from the cooker to see to her. I had tried to use a sling but she threw up so much it was pointless using it.
I couldn’t listen to my son reading each night with a screaming baby and he could not concentrate. Many times it would end with us both crying after I had become worked up that he wasn’t understanding a word he had only just read the previous page. (It’s taken a year and a half to get us both to the point where we are enjoying reading together and not losing the will to live)
Music became my savior, I would try lift my mood by playing songs l liked and I would dance with my son in the kitchen (something we have both enjoyed doing for years). Sometimes my daughter would be crying as I tried to drown the noise out and sometimes she would be fine.
It was really getting to me the amount of times I heard friends or family say “aww what’s the matter with her face? It looks like eczema” Well yes her face looked horrendous the poor thing, it was red raw all over her cheeks to her head and she would scratch it constantly.
Despite me getting creams from the GP, the angry looking skin did not settle down.
I just wanted someone / anyone to hear me and believe me when I said something was wrong with my baby and it wasn’t ‘just’ baby acne or baby eczema.
I became fiercely protective of my unwell baby, I felt like no one was interested in her and if they did pay her any attention it was for the wrong reason, her sore face.
When the 4 weeks of being dairy and soya free were up, my daughters symptoms were better but not fully so I did the challenge. I had a milkshake and waited to see what would happen…the thing is, I wasn’t 100% sure I had definitely cut all dairy out of my diet as I was given no advice on how to look for it. I had to research it by myself so I knew that I had to read all food labels but it’s highly possible that some slipped through.
24 hours post milkshake my daughter was back to being sick along with rashes during feeds and the fighting had restarted.
I went back to the GP who confirmed it looked like a dairy allergy. He referred me to the hospital and refused to give me alternative formula saying “breastfeeding rates are low” and ‘breastfeeding was best’ for my baby. Trust me, I know but I alone could not be held accountable for that.
I came away feeling so upset that I was the reason my baby was in pain and that I couldn’t even stop breastfeeding to help her get better. By this point I didn’t want to breastfeed anymore, I wanted to have a break from the constant feeds and screaming.
My mood was sinking more and more but someone I know suggested I go to a breastfeeding cafe ran by a lactation consultant. She had diagnosed her daughters tongue tie and referred for it to be snipped. At this point I had nothing to lose and I needed someone to hear what I was saying. I needed reassurance and advice on what I was doing wrong.
I don’t like to be late for anything and don’t like getting lost despite this being a place where you can just turn up. I got there before the lactation consultant!
She saw me getting out of my car and must have seen a look in my face, despair I imagine. She invited me inside whilst she set the room up and asked if I had been before (the cafe is very popular) and what had brought me there that day.
I told her about the feeding issues and that both a GP and a health visitor had assessed my baby but hadn’t found a tongue tie. She stopped what she was doing, put some sterile gloves on and asked my baby’s age. (She was coming up to 11 weeks by now).
I was asked to lay my baby down on my lap facing me and she sat herself opposite so my daughters face was upside down to her. Using her fingers she felt around my daughters mouth and said there was some restriction but upon lifting my daughters tongue and pushing the soft tissue back she found what is known as a posterior tongue tie (its hidden and harder to see).
Straight away she told me to call my health visitor and demand to be referred urgently to the hospital. The lactation consultant could not believe we had struggled on for so long and advised me that a lot of the symptoms I was seeing could also be from the dairy allergy so to rule out one issue before moving to the next issue.
I have no blame for the gp or health visitor at all, you know why? My health visitor told me she had only been given 10 minutes training on it when she first trained years ago. Nowadays it appears to be on the increase, is it because more people are breastfeeding? Or is it linked to the mtfhr gene mutation? Maybe it’s because we have more knowledge…
It’s probably not even covered in GP’s training and most often than not you never see the same GP. This is why it’s important to keep going back as your history of visits can be traced back on their system and at some point they see there must be more going on than they believed.
My next step involved me calling the health visitor who invited me in to complete a written tongue tie assessment/referral. It was faxed straight over but it was a Friday afternoon so I wasn’t optimistic I would hear for a while. I was called the following Thursday and informed I had an appointment the Thursday after where, if it was deemed necessary the procedure to snip the tongue tie would go ahead.