Our story of Breastfeeding struggles: Lip Tie

Are you a new mom or mom-to-be who deeply values breastfeeding?  I was sure when becoming a mom that the answer to any health problem is breastmilk (or coconut oil!  Don’t get me started on coconut oil!).  Infection? Pink eye? Brain development, healthy body composition, awesome immune system. Preparing motherhood, my top priority was to breastfeed my baby for as long as both of us were willing and able. 

On the day Cora was born, I was exhausted from a long and arduous labor.  Awake for over 40 hours straight by the time of her delivery, I was too delirious to insist that my baby latch right away.  Within several hours, she successfully began to breastfeed and get some awesome colostrum.  Nurses were amazed at how strong her latch was.  I was equally amazed – at how much it hurt. Without a frame of reference, I thought she was nursing frequently, but though she would often attempt to latch, her sessions were short and very painful for me. Within a few days, my midwife began to worry at how much weight she had dropped.  And my milk that should have come in on the third day… didn’t.  I started pumping often to try to bring in my milk.  I was raw, cracked and bleeding. Cora looked emaciated and didn’t have enough wet diapers.  My mama red flags were flying high!  I knew something wasn’t right.

Luckily, I had recently learned about tongue and lip tie and its genetic link (A post on MTHFR will be coming soon!).  I realized just weeks before her birth that the gap teeth my dad, all four of my siblings and I sported were likely due to a severe lip tie.

My milk came in hard and fast on day 4. That’s when I came to grips that Cora had a problem.  My breasts were not being fully emptied. In the first few days, I developed 3 blocked ducts and a couple near cases of mastitis (thank you, chiropractic and garlic!).  I began to notice that she just couldn’t get her lip around my nipple.  Then I finally remembered to look in her mouth.  There it was, a severe lip tie.  Thank goodness I knew what to look for.  I will stop to mention that though she had been checked by several nurses, two midwives, and we had even seen a lactation consultant, this was not caught. 

Cora began to put on weight and have enough output, but my sore nipples and blocked ducts just did not improve.  After lots of research, the option we decided was right for us was a laser revision of both her lip and tongue tie. This is done at a pediatric dentist’s office.  We preferred this option to the surgical revision because it was less traumatic and didn’t require anesthesia.  At 12 days old, they put Cora in ridiculous goggles and took her into a private room for the brief procedure.  As a new mom, being away from her for these few moments was the hardest part of the whole thing.  We were given exercises to help improve her suck and keep her new range of motion. She was clearly in pain for a day or two, and completely needed to retrain her sucking biomechanics, but the relief for me was instantaneous. Then it was time for me to take off my mama hat and put on my pediatric chiropractic hat. Working on her upper spine and cranials frequently in the first week improved her latch exponentially.  We had moved from a scary place – no milk, and extraordinary pain, to become a successful breastfeeding pair in a matter of a few days.  She went on to nurse until she was 20 months and my pregnancy with Eva dried up my supply.

**I am neither a pediatric dentist, a lactation consultant, nor a pediatric ENT who performs these procedures or does evaluations.   This is just the story of one super stubborn mama who persisted through a tough situation to be able to breastfeed.  If you intend to breastfeed, know that it is almost never easy! Getting the support you need is necessary and worth it if it is a priority.

Tongue and lip tie have been growing at an alarming rate in the last few decades.  Some unknown factors remain, but genetic influence is highly involved (Again, I will post on MTHFR next).  I have since caught dozens of lip and tongue ties in my littlest and sweetest patients.  Other providers have also begun to see more and refer these post-revision cuties to our office. Gentle adjustments of their upper spine, cranial work, and suck retraining exercises have helped many other mamas and babies go on to meet their breastfeeding goals.

Have you had an experience with lip or tongue tie?  Do you have persistent breastfeeding issues?  Please share your experience here!  If you would like your child to be checked for lip and tongue tie, we recommend Dr. Darcy Rindelaub of St. Croix Kidds Pediatric Dentistry or Riverdale Pediatric Dentistry in Coon Rapids.  Once the revision is complete, we are honored to check the biomechanics of the cranials and upper spine to improve the latch even more.   Feel free to email me at drerin@lifelonghealthchiropractic.com if you have any questions.

My favorite breastfeeding resources for tongue/lip tie  as well as all else nursing are from KellyMom. http://kellymom.com/health/baby-health/bfhelp-tonguetie/

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    Dr. Sheena grew up in the western suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her undergraduate studies in Architecture, Chemistry, and Sustainability at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.