How can my baby boy be 12 weeks old already?! It has flown by in a mixture of hazy newborn love, sleeplessness, toddler tantrums, family time and my return to work… actually, when I see it written down like that I CAN see how that time has slipped by!
So as most of you know Lennox was born on a sunny Friday morning 12 weeks ago. We are grateful to have had a perfect mix of health, environment, support, and a dash of good luck for his arrival, and we welcomed him into the world at home (if you want all the deets, you can read about it here).
Unlike Florence, he came out eager to feed. He latched on for the first time exactly 6 minutes after he was born and I was hopeful that things would be easier this time than last (if you’ve not heard me talking about the tough start Florence and I faced, you can read about it here to see how we overcame the challenges we had, and why I was hoping for an easier ride this time!), but unfortunately it’s not been quite as smooth as I had hoped.
Although he was far more interested, and better able to stay latched than his sister, even before we cut his cord both my Doula and I noticed he was clicking whilst feeding, I was also feeling a familiar pinching discomfort when he latched. In my heart I know he was likely to be tongue tied – it’s hereditary anyway, plus these early signs… anyway I mentioned it to the midwife who didn’t seem concerned, and with some help to latch better, he fed quite well in terms of him being happy and remaining attached for the duration of a feed. After his initial check over, and his NIPE check we were assured he wasn’t tongue tied, but I wasn’t satisfied – the sensation of they way he was feeding was all too familiar – a chomping suck more than a tongue wave to extract milk. Our Doula Lynsey* (a breastfeeding peer supporter to name one of her many hats) also agreed his latch didn’t seem as good as it could be, offered me help with positioning and tips to try and I decided to give it a few days to see if it was a case of us needing to work on positioning and attachment more. After about a week I knew that things weren’t improving: he wasn’t really opening wide to latch, my nipples by then were hurting a lot and starting to crack, he was choking & spluttering with a familiar uncoordinated sucking pattern & he was showing a lot of signs of reflux – mainly lots of vomiting but also coughing and struggling to breathe especially when laid down at night.
I absolutely didn’t want to go down the route of medicating the reflux as a first step, and already knew TT can be a cause of reflux. even though he was worn in a sling a lot, burped regularly, kept upright after a feed etc it was getting worse not better as he took more milk as it came in, and I knew it was time to seek further support. Our doula Lynsey was able to give me the details of a local Tongue Tie Practitioner who was able to see us the next morning when Lenny was 11 days old.
As with Florence it was horrible making a tiny baby hold off for a feed to ensure he was hungry, and willing to show off the underside of his tongue (euphemism alert – I mean crying). It was quite a bizarre experience to have him examined on our dinner table, but Paula was lovely and was quickly able to diagnose the ‘short, tight and 90% restrictive’ frenulum, and even more quickly cut it. There was a bit of blood and unhappiness but thankfully it was short lived – he quickly latched on and seemed to take a deeper mouthful of breast and was happy, and the reflux seemed less problematic. He was quite unhappy for about 24 hours though, we even gave him a tiny dose of paracetamol that evening which is something we rarely use in our house as he seemed so uncomfortable. The next day he was much happier and things seemed better for a few days before starting to feel trickier again. I continued trying to ensure he had a good latch – taking him off to start again if it didn’t feel right, seeking support from peer supporters and using all the knowledge I had from last time, but I already knew we would be likely to be seeing Paula again, especially as the vomiting was back with a vengeance, but I was reluctant to rush back in case we could work it out alone.
After trying everything, I got back in touch with Paula who agreed it sounded like the tie could need revising if it hadn’t been fully cut, or had healed back together.** She was able to see us when he was just over 6 weeks old and once again he needed it cut as she noted it was still very restrictive for him. This time he needed a few snips as it was so thick and there was much more blood, I felt awful and doubted my choice when he was simultaneously sobbing, breastfeeding, and dribbling blood down us both afterwards, but again his feeding was better. This time the wound was much bigger and in the evening whilst he was sleeping on me I noticed it had started to bleed again (this is a known risk, but something I’d not experienced with the previous 3 divisions – Flossie’s two and his first) and I panicked! I put him straight on the boob knowing the milk and action of feeding can help stem the bleeding and made Matt dig out the aftercare notes given to us in case we needed to try anything else – thankfully we didn’t!
Again the immediate improvements declined slightly (though it never went back to the initial level of pain / reflux either time) after about 5 days, I read a leaflet written by a Lactation Consultant named Sarah Oakley explaining that this can actually be quite common as scar tissue forms and baby can develop muscle fatigue after using their tongue in a new way after it having been restricted so I decided to just hold fire and give him the chance to strengthen his tongue and allow the new tissue to soften up.
Since then he has slowly improved and the reflux has pretty much completely subsided – he is still sick occasionally but its much more of a rare occurrence and most babies bring up some milk occasionally! He still splutters fairly often and tries to latch on as though slurping spaghetti rather than opening wide a lot, it can be a bit uncomfortable when he first latches, but overall things are okay and I know we are in it for the duration!
So here’s to the coming months or years – I’ll be back with updates as our journey progresses. There will be ups and there will be downs, but I know we are over the worst now that feeding is well established! He is gaining weight brilliantly – at least I assume so as he keeps outgrowing clothes (and has earned himself the nickname The Beast haha) but he’s not been weighed since his 6 week check, generally very content and alert, and I’ve even managed feeding in a sling this time which definitely wasn’t manageable by 12 weeks with Flossie!
If you would like breastfeeding support, information, signposting or solidarity there is plenty available at the HQ – Cake Club on a Thursday, and The Motherhood Movement on a Wednesday. Follow the Facebook page here to stay up to date with what’s going on.
**Tongue tie practitioners are not in agreement over the reason for second divisions being necessary sometimes – some feel it heals together again, others that it wasn’t cut as far as needed initially, and others still question if the initial release allows further restricted membrane to move forward needing dividing later on.