Revisiting my first breastfeeding adventure in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, I realised that I haven’t spoken about feeding my daughter at all! What an experience that has been.
I have quite a bad habit, two bad habits in fact. Firstly, I’m my own harshest critic and I expect myself to excel at everything I take on with determination and passion. If someone tells me a new skill or project takes two years to master, I listen intently but mentally set myself the target to smash it in one or less! Secondly, when I set my mind to something, it consumes me. I eat, sleep and breath it until I’ve cracked it. Much to the despair of my poor, long suffering but ever supportive husband. Breastfeeding was no exception. I read, studied and trained after Starfish was born, steadfast in my milky, oxytocin bubble and gained my volunteer peer support qualification. I adore helping other mums to achieve their feeding goals and in many cases find an inner strength to achieve more than they ever believed was possible. So I wasn’t the slightest bit phased when I became pregnant with my daughter while still feeding 13 month old Starfish. I’ll boss this tandem gig I boasted to myself, while simultaneously congratulating myself that I hadn’t given in to the general public opinion that you can’t conceive while breastfeeding and attempted to wean Starfish in order to grow him a sibling.
I naively thought that because I had successfully fed Starfish for nearly 2 years at that point, while keeping up to date with best practice from places like the World Health Organisation and Unicef, feeding my second baby would be a walk in the park!
Initially, all was well and although Chickpea didn’t have a brilliant latch, I wasn’t phased because I knew enough handy tricks to help her improve and perfect it and the feeds were pain free.I was so sure all was on track that Chickpea was delivered at 10:10am on the Wednesday and I was home again, having lunch in my own kitchen with the family on Thursday afternoon.Even when the midwife visited a few days later and gave me the familiar news that Chickpea had, just like her brother before her, dropped 1 ounce below the recommended 10% weight loss, while I was disappointed, I knew it wasn’t a big deal. More of a family tradition at this stage.
The weeks went by and Chickpea gained weight slowly but steadily and feeds were frequent and pain free, so all was well, right? Wrong! She went through periods every night from about 3 weeks old on, for anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time of screaming hysterically as if she was being viciously attacked. Unlike Starfish, she wasn’t particularly windy and when she went into this traumatic tailspin, I couldn’t soothe her by offering her a feed. Nothing could soothe her and very often either her Dad or I would hold her as we both sobbed until she fell asleep.
After a week or 2 of this horrendous ritual, I gave in to my gut instinct and brought her to the doctor. Silent reflux was the diagnosis and we were given medication. This went against everything I believed in but at this stage I was so exhausted and bewildered I went along with it. I couldn’t let her suffer any longer and there was clearly something wrong.
A few weeks in on the medication and things were marginally better but still my gut said we hadn’t gotten to the bottom of it yet so back to the GP we went. This time the doctor looked in her mouth and announced “Oh look, she has a thick tongue tie at the back”. I was incredulous and scoffed that he was mistaken because I am a trained breastfeeding peer supporter and I knew for a fact that where there is a tongue tie there is pain during feeds. The doctor was kind to my objection but remained steadfast in this resolve that Chickpea did have a posterior tongue tie and in his opinion it was best to arrange a revision. I thanked him for his time and explained I’d like to speak to my lactation consultant before arranging the procedure. We saw the consultant the following day, and sure enough, a thick posterior tongue tie was spotted straight away. So thick in fact, that she said a revision was definitely a good idea as it would undoubtedly be affecting feeds and could disrupt speech development later on. What blew my mind even more was, when I asked how far someone should be able to move their tongue and I opened my mouth to demo, the consultant spotted that I myself, have an identical, undiagnosed to that point, tongue tie to my daughter!
We went to the city a few days later and had the revision done. It took about 4 seconds to do and while hubby and I were completely traumatised, Chickpea didn’t much more than squeak and she immediately fed as soon as it was over and settled down for a lovely snooze in her sling. From that point on, and following 4 visits to an osteopath, she as a new baby and her true, fun but feisty, wise beyond her years, personality began to shine through.
It turns out the reason I had no pain and Chickpea’s weight gain was consistent despite her initial obstacle, was infact down to her heroic bother and his refusal to wean all the way through my pregnancy. He persevered right the way through, even when my milk changed, to the point where he would even hop down and get a drink of water or juice after a feed if the taste wasn’t to his liking. It turns out his little sister owes him a debt and I have no doubt it’s one of the reasons they have such a strong bond today.