The beginning: It all started when Noah was born, and the normal 2 week painful nursing window never went away. My sister in law has 4 kids, and was a rock star at nursing. She always told me to hang in there past the first 2 wks, and it will get better. 4 wks went by and I was in so much pain on a daily basis I had to continue to take hydrocodone, in addition to Aleve 2x/day just to get through the day. I called my OB, talked to our pediatrician, and spoke to my co-worker who was a lactation consultant at the hospital, and everyone was out of suggestions. His latch 'looked' good, and there was no KNOWN reason for why he was literally chewing me up, AND why he couldn't gain weight. He started out at 8# 1oz. and dropped to <10th percentile quickly and never got over it for a while. We had a very supportive pediatrician who never suggested formula, but I absolutely knew something was wrong. A sweet friend, trying to encourage me, suggested I pump and give Noah one bottle a day to relieve some of the pain and help promote healing. I cried and cried and cried the first bottle I gave him... The one bottle a day helped, but I never healed so I slowly transitioned from nursing all day to pumping all day then nursing only once a day. I was a slave to the pump, and I felt guilty because a lot of times I had to put him in his swing to pump, and I just had to watch him from across the room. Heart... breaking... My supply barely ever provided for his daily feedings also.
The first specialist: From the recommendation of a friend I sought out a pediatric dentist to investigate his upper lip. I suspected he had an upper lip tie, which if you have never seen one, his upper frenulum looked a lot like this. His was even tighter, I just can't find a picture, basically it looked like it hooked completely under his gums.
(picture borrowed from: https://www.breastfeedingmaterials.com/case-studies/infant-retracted-upper-lip-and-maternal-nipple-trauma)
So I get to the pediatric dentist expecting some answers, waited 30 minutes, and he told me my son was totally normal. NORMAL? Really?! I had seen a lactation consultant a million times and nothing was improving in my pain or healing, so I knew something was wrong. What I left with from that visit was that I was not TRYING hard enough to breast feed... AND that I was crazy apparently... not to mention More heart ache...
My sanity starts to fade: I'm pretty confident I never dealt with postpartum, but I was extremely defeated by all of my nursing problems. I think it was more along the lines of situational depression. I felt like an UTTER FAILURE! All the hopes and dreams I had of nursing my son and the wonderful experience I had hoped it to be, began to fade. As a dietitian I KNEW that breast feeding was the absolute best thing for my son, and I was damned and determined to not give up. I'm stubborn like that... Side note: I never healed until I completely stopped breast feeding altogether, keep that in mind. So pumping HURT, the one time/day I nursed HURT, my heart HURT, and my spirit was crushed...
Reality sets in: My sweet friend who is a pediatric Nurse Practitioner came to visit with her son who was 2 months YOUNGER than Noah when he was about 14 wks old, and when I looked at them side by side I knew something wasn't right. They were the EXACT same size. Noah was growing extremely slowly, and I tried to act like I didn't notice but I couldn't deny it anymore. It started to sink in that something was wrong... and it felt like all my fault. He was such a wonderful baby, full of joy, and a great sleeper that I didn't want to accept the truth. BUT the ugly truth was, I was totally failing at breast feeding. I didn't want to see the signs, but they were definitely there. One big sign was that he would cry at the end of a feeding like he was still hungry, but would take a pacifier and calm down. I wasn't necessarily trying to ration the milk I did have, I was just utterly confused because even though he seemed hungry, he had HORRIBLE REFLUX! I tried every reflux solution under the sun and it never got better. So if I GAVE him all that he thought he wanted, he threw most of it up. The reflux will be explained later, but it was NOT due to the fact that he wasn't hungry. He was very hungry actually. My sanity continues to fade...
The transition to formula: I will never forget the next couple of weeks of trying to hold on to breast feeding, and realizing it was almost over for me. I spilt the only stock pile I had and literally SOBBED.. for a very long time.... After speaking with a friend, she told me that her sister in law was an over producer and had an enormous stock pile, and that she would probably donate some milk to me. At first I was weary of accepting it mainly out of pride, and then I was unbelievably humbled that another woman would be so selfless to give up 'liquid gold' so that I could continue to have a child that held the title of "Exclusively Breastfed." I realize now that I held on to the title at the end much longer than I should have. This sweet friend graciously gave us at least a couple weeks of milk, and then at 16 weeks I finally gave in and gave him formula. I will never forget her kindness, and generosity to love another mom through a tough season and provide for my baby. I gave Noah Earth's Best Organic Formula (because it made me feel better it was organic for some reason) and he never looked back.
Formula was a gift from heaven: at the time I resented the formula, I LOATHED the smell, the texture, the look on his face when he would transition from a bottle of breast milk to formula... BUT he was FINALLY growing!!! He was back on his growth curve, he was happy, I stopped pumping as much, and by 6 months old he had completely weaned himself. He still had reflux for reasons we didn't understand at the time, and I had to have him on fast flow nipples or he fussed and fussed, but he was GROWING ya'll!!! He jumped from the 10th percentile in weight and 60th in height, to the 50th in weight and the 90th in height in ONE MONTH! He was back on his original growth curve, and all was FINALLY right in the world... so we thought.
Fast forward to teeth: When Noah's teeth finally came in, there was a gap SO HUGE in the front that people actually thought he was missing a tooth. I knew he wasn't... I KNEW it was the frenulum. I took him to a pediatric ENT who formally diagnosed the upper lip tie. She said that boys usually tear them on their own eventually, and they don't usually correct them until their adult teeth come in if they need too. So I went to ANOTHER dentist (a different one of course), and she confirmed the same thing... so we moved on with our lives.. again.
Fast forward to talking: Noah has never hit any of his milestones super early, but he certainly has never been late. I started noticing when he would attempt to talk he could NEVER say things the way his friends could though. He tried... but he just couldn't. I thought maybe it was just another thing the Lord needed to teach me patience on, so when I quit my job I started working with him daily on letters, reading, and such. He got better, but still was not where his friends were, even the younger ones. I spoke to a speech and language therapist at the hospital prior to quitting, and she confirmed that his speech issues could be related to his lip tie. I spoke to a good friend who had a daughter who had a lip AND tongue tie, and ANOTHER friend who is a dentist and finally decided to see ONE MORE SPECIALIST.
FINALLY the right dentist! At the recommendation of 2 people I got an appointment with only 1 of TWO pediatric dentists in ALL of HOUSTON that specialize in lip ties. I went in without any expectations, but was happily surprised. Within 10 minutes of being there my little guy had been diagnosed with not only a significant upper lip tie, but also a deep rear tongue tie. I sit here barely able to put into words how utterly validated but UNBELIEVABLY FRUSTRATED I was at the same time. My breast feeding had been robbed from me, my sanity stretched, and my heart broken seeing my little guy HUNGRY all that time, and I KNEW in my heart and soul that something had always been wrong...
IMPORTANT NOTE! Apparently lip/tongue ties are fairly normal, but only a small percentage of the population actually have babies that can't nurse from them, AND an even smaller percentage need to have any sort of intervention. The sad part is that significant cases like Noah's end up turning into situations where the mother seeks answers, doesn't get any, and then just ends up formula feeding (Which, thank the Lord for formula, otherwise our babies would have no other options.) Or in my very own instance, I didn't talk until I was THREE and then was in speech therapy until second grade. One VERY interesting thing I learned was, that apparently mid wives and doctors used to be VERY knowledgeable about ties until formula was pushed in the 50s. Historically babies would DIE, yes DIE if their mother's couldn't nurse. Midwives and doctors were actually so familiar with ties, they could tell as soon as the baby was born if it was lip/tongue tied, and they clipped them immediately. Nowadays, there are only a few specialists who even know that there are more than 1 or 2 different ones. If you suspect your child has a tongue tie, and you live near by I would be happy to connect you with the people I know who can help you.
The FINAL solution, and fast forward to present day: The dentist wasn't too concerned about his health/teeth in general (he has maintained >50th percentile in weight, and >95th percentile in height ever since we started formula), but still recommended we see someone for further evaluation of his speech. After months of trying to schedule an appointment, yesterday we FINALLY had an appointment with a pediatric speech therapist to see if we could work on his speech (this is their first option before lazering any of ties, which is usually done closer to 3 if they are not nursing any more). SO yesterday we go to a speech and language center in Katy, again expecting very little, and left with more information than I could have imagined. Not only is he definitely suffering from a bit of a significant language issue, but he also presently has feeding problems... STILL!!!!! His tongue can't move properly, and his cheek muscles are under developed therefore he can only chew a certain way. His chubby cheeks should have thinned out by now, but are still there despite his body thinning out. She was shocked at how well he has adapted, given the significance of his tongue tie. She attributed his reflux/ nursing problems as a baby 100% to the tongue as well. I just sat there in utter disbelief that it had gotten this far... TWO YEARS LATER and I knew something was wrong week 3...
Validation, frustration, tears, and motivation: between yesterday and today I have felt a myriad of emotions. TRUST ME, in the grand scheme of things... I KNOW this is not that big of a deal to anyone but Jamey and I. He does not have a significant medical issue, and he will be fine... he has managed to thrive, grow, and adapt in-spite of it all. But this has legitimately been a struggle for me personally. I desperately wanted to breast feed and couldn't, he was hungry for much of the beginning of his life, we have had eating issues this entire time that I thought were just related to a million other things... and above all things I had specialist after specialist make me feel like I was CRAZY!!!!!!!! My maternal instincts were there, and it breaks my heart to think that I couldn't have done something sooner. My pregnant hormones got the best of me today and I cried about it out of frustration, and now I'm being proactive about it trying to educate you all in this blog.
The future: I'm almost 32 weeks pregnant but starting Monday we will begin speech therapy twice a week with someone who specializes in eating/speech problems. According to the lady we saw yesterday he will still most likely need the rear tie lazered before he is 3. For right now, I'm grateful we finally got answers, but I'm frustrated they took this long to come. Like I said previously, in the grand scheme this is no big deal... but for all the frustration and tears I have shed over the past couple of years over a problem I knew existed but no one believed me about, this finally feels like validation.
I pray this has shed some light on a topic very few people are properly educated about, AND that it encourages you to trust that instinct inside of you that tells you if something isn't right with your little one. Also, don't forget to QUESTION medical professionals... it's hard for me to challenge people to do that knowing that I never loved to be questioned, but it needs to happen. Everyone is human, and NO ONE has all the answers. I'll keep the blog updated on how speech therapy goes, and if Noah's food preferences expand once he can finally use his tongue properly...
In the mean time, keep fighting the good fight of trying to raise healthy little ones!!
Love and blessings,
The Veggie Momma
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