My Breastfeeding Journey Print This Post

November 14, 2017 | By | Reply More

It’s been on my mind a lot lately to write about my breastfeeding journey with my daughter, Rebekah. I believe I have had somewhat of a unique experience, simply because I have not heard of many other mothers go through exactly what I went through. My breastfeeding journey began about 40 minutes after Rebekah was born. She was born via c-section, and about 40 minutes after her birth, the midwife that was looking after us at the time popped Rebekah straight onto my breast. That first moment was a bit of a shocker. Honestly, the way she put Rebekah onto me was rushed, painful and uncomfortable. Not long after this experience though, the uncomfortable and painful moments occurred, with every single feed. It didn’t get any better.

I know that many mothers can experience pain when they first breastfeed, discomfort too, and also nipple damage. I also know that it is not uncommon for the nipple damage to continue, and not completely heal. I was given lots of different advice from different nurses at the hospital I attended regarding how to overcome the damage. I did everything I could, but nothing worked, and the pain stayed strong. It was uncomfortable, but I knew that I needed to keep pushing through it as it was only very early days. The nursing staff all complimented Rebekah on her great attachment on the breast each time they saw her breastfeed. They did not seem to see anything wrong from her end.

It wasn’t until I got home that the damage and pain got worse, and I needed help understanding what was going on. I remember discussing this experience with some of my close friends who told me that I needed to rest and express (pump) the breast milk and feed it to Rebekah in a bottle. I got very badly damaged on both sides, but moreso on the left nipple. It ended up healing. The right nipple, however, got worse. As such, I decided to express the breast milk from my right side and to see if it would heal, similar to how the left side got better.

My situation did not improve. I actually got pretty badly damaged, so much so that within a couple of weeks I encountered mastitis on my right side. Mastitis is an inflammation inside your breast caused by blocked milk ducts, as a result of the baby not properly draining you, and an infection may occur (source: http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/common-concerns%E2%80%93mum/mastitis). There is a hotline that you can call here in Australia called the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). There are mums that volunteer their time to be a counselor as such to help other mothers with their enquiries regarding breastfeeding. I contacted them asking for help as I was so badly damaged, and I had switched to expressing breast milk from the right side. While I was talking to a counselor at the time, she mentioned to me that if you have blocked ducts, and your baby is not properly draining you, then you can end up with mastitis. The most common symptoms of mastitis are flu-like symptoms, feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck, fever, and so on. She commented on how I sounded to her over the phone, asking if I had a cold. I was stupidly sitting by an open window (in the middle of autumn in the late afternoon/evening), and thought I got the sniffles because of that. However, not long after I ended the call with the ABA counselor, I started getting the shakes. I had a high fever, and I felt unwell. That was when I knew that I had gotten mastitis. I decided to treat it with natural remedies, so I took a lot of Vitamin C, probiotics, coconut oil and water. Rebekah thankfully understood what was going on and fed every hour to help drain the blocked ducts from the right side. It was a horrible experience, but I know that many mothers go through this. I had continued to express from the right side, not long after I recovered, as I needed to heal the damage.

I began seeking advice online from mother’s groups and breastfeeding groups. Eventually, I was told that the best approach was to see an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Around the time when Rebekah turned one month old, I had decided to contact the ABA again, and look into seeing an IBCLC about my breastfeeding journey so far. I had a lovely lady come to our house to watch me breastfeed Rebekah, and make comments after that. During this time, I had blocked ducts again and was still struggling to heal the damage. The IBCLC informed me that I had low grade mastitis, from the blocked ducts at the time, and that Rebekah had a lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. It is not uncommon. But it was the reason why I was still damaged a month after her birth, and was not healing or feeling more comfortable feeding my daughter. It was also the reason why I was experiencing blocked ducts, and even a couple of cases of mastitis. I was glad to get some answers because I had always wanted to be able to breastfeed when having children, and considering that I had and still have plenty of milk, I did not want to switch to anything else to feed my baby (my Grandmother refers to me as a Jersey Cow because I have plenty of milk, and Jersey Cows are the best cows for milking – haha).

The IBCLC explained to me that there was a simple procedure that could be done to ‘release the ties’ via a scalpel or laster treatment and thus encourage a better outcome for our breastfeeding journey. She also informed me that if I did not decide on releasing the ties then it can cause speech problems, digestive problems, dental problems, eating problems and so on (I cannot remember all of the potentials but I know that having a tongue tie does mean you can have speech impediments in the future). I didn’t want Rebekah to be disadvantaged by any means. I thought to myself, if I went and did the release, it wasn’t for my sake, to have a more comfortable experience breastfeeding her, it was for her sake.

I did some research into this, and asked in the breastfeeding and mothers groups, as well as having discussions with some of my close friends. After looking into the signs and symptoms of lip ties and tongue ties, it made a lot more sense to me and it was pretty well set in my mind that these ties needed to be released. I had experienced mastitis, blocked ducts, Rebekah was very windy, I had terrible nipple damage, and painful breastfeeding experiences every single time I fed her.

I decided to talk to my parents about this. At first they thought it was good that I had an answer to my problems. However, they wanted me to see the pediatrician at the hospital where Rebekah was born. I made an appointment the next week and went with my Dad. Long story short, the pediatrician told me that the lip/tongue tie procedure was a scam, that there was nothing wrong with Rebekah, and to not go anywhere near her mouth. I felt relieved because the procedure was quite expensive from research that I had gathered in regards to this (laser treatment in particular, which was a preferred suggestion by the IBCLC). Later on that night after returning home from the hospital, however, I didn’t feel right. I guess you could say my ‘motherly instincts’ kicked in. I decided to express this with my parents. My Dad proceeded to verbally abuse me and attack me simply because I was going against the pediatrician’s advice (he worships doctors like ‘gods’  and thinks they are always right). It was a horrible night, having that sort of conflict, simply because, I, being the MOTHER OF MY CHILD, did not feel right with the outcome of the discussion I had with the pediatrician.

I told my Mum I wanted another opinion and so I saw the IBCLC at the hospital the following week. My Mum went with me this time, and the IBCLC said that there was nothing wrong. She also said that REbekah had a high pallet, but it can develop differently as time passes by, that the damage and pain isn’t completely abnormal, but nothing wrong with her lip or tongue (although she noticed something with her lip). I told her everything that I had encountered every single time I breastfed: the damage, the pain, mastitis, blocked ducts, Rebekah being very windy and it all potentially being a result of having the ties. I came back home feeling relieved, but my ‘motherly instincts’ kicked in once again and I still did not feel confident with what has been said to me by these medical  professionals at the hospital.

A couple of weeks went by, and Rebekah was eight weeks old. One morning I woke up and fed her, and when I went to change her nappy (diaper), she coughed up blood: both fresh blood and old blood that was sitting in her stomach. At first, I freaked out. But then I looked at myself (my nipples) and I had a fresh cut on my right side. She was coughing up blood as a result of damaging me after breastfeeding. I went and saw a child health nurse later that morning who informed me that my daughter had a “massive lip tie” that should be revised. She did not see anything wrong with the tongue. She also informed me that the pediatrician I saw at the hospital, who told me that there was nothing wrong with Rebekah and that these kinds of services releasing the ties are a scam, is actually notorious for being ‘anti-tie’ as such.

I decided to do more research, talk to more people, talk more with my friends, and call the clinic that specializes in laser treatment for releasing lip and tongue ties. I ended up making a consultation appointment with them. I also had to make an appointment with a chiropractor who specializes in lip and tongue tie releases, dealing with body work and breastfeeding.

The chiropractor appointment was first. She told me that Rebekah had a lip tie, and a small but prominent tongue tie that should get revised.  A couple of days later, I had the consultation with the doctor who specializes in revising lip and tongue ties via laser. She told me that without even looking inside Rebekah’s mouth, she knew something was wrong. Her facial structure stood out to the doctor. Rebekah has a recessive jaw (potentially due to the posterior tongue tie as it can restrict the proper growth and development of the jaw). As I mentioned earlier, Rebekah has a high pallet too, which actually can affect correct breastfeeding as well.

After the consultation, I agreed to do the revision. They used a specific kind of laser called Waterlase (non-contact laser, very effective) which only took a few minutes. Immediately after this, they gave Rebekah to me, to put on my chest, for direct skin-to-skin contact and to feed as there is a natural pain relief that comes out through the breastmilk. Rebekah did well. I made sure she was okay by getting her to smile and she did.

After this procedure, I was told to continue seeing the chiropractor, as well as doing stretches to the lip and tongue, to make sure that it doesn’t reattach. This was so stressful because I had to do this all by myself, without anyone knowing, or having any physical support present. But, I committed myself to doing what I believed was right for my daughter.

I did the stretches every day, every 4 hours, for a month. I saw the chiropractor as often as she told me to. Things were looking well. Unfortunately though, it was, and still is to this day, painful for me to breastfeed Rebekah. I do not get cuts or bleeding, but I do get damage which results in scar tissue on my nipples (which I have been told will not heal). I have gotten used to the pain (which isn’t always as bad) and the damage. I am thankful though that I did go through this and fix the problem, because like I said before, it was for betterment of her sake, and not for me or my breastfeeding journey specifically.

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I plan on breastfeeding Rebekah for as long as possible. I do not see that happening though given the struggles that I continue to have with her. Her jaw is still set back a bit, and her pallet is still high. In time, things may change. I remain hopeful.

I wanted to write about this journey simply because there are mothers out there that go through similar experiences and either get the wrong advice, or are so unsure, or do not follow their motherly instincts. Please, if you truly believe something is not right, then you know your child better than anyone else. Give it all to God in prayer . We all go through stressful and painful experiences, especially with having children and becoming new mothers, new parents. It is hard doing things alone, but I am so thankful that I have a great network of friends that support me, and my faith in God is stronger than ever before.

Breastfeeding may not always work out the way you want it to. I personally believe that God created us women to breastfeed our children, and I know that breast is best. That is why, despite everything, I still continue to breast feed my daughter. It is easier having food right then and there, and on the go for your baby. It brings comfort to them too.

 

I hope that this journey of mine encourages someone out there. You are not alone. God is with you. Do what you think is best for your child. It is no longer about us anymore, as when we become parents, our children come first. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God… And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. (Philippians 4:6; Psalms 9:10).

God Bless.

 

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