A break from my usual musings to talk about help and where to get it. As this thoughtful post from my fellow new mum Jen makes clear, there is help available for all manner of issues facing new parents and their new babies, and it is free and accessible round the clock and much of it is useful.
Here’s where I’m going to add the caveat: get the right help from the right people. This I say in response to my own experience and that of one of my NCT chums; we’ve both recently faced issues with breastfeeding that were physical/medical rather than simple matters of getting the latch right, and not all of the advice we received was helpful or even correct.
In my case, after speaking to three breastfeeding consultants, two health visitors and a midwife (all of whom felt Scarlett’s latch looked good), reading every breastfeeding article on the internet and watching hours of YouTube videos, it was the midwife who spotted a potential tongue tie and referred us to the crack team at Evelina Children’s Hospital. As the tongue tie was posterior, it had been sitting unspotted at the back of her mouth – the midwives checked her on delivery but posterior ties are harder to detect than anterior (front) ties and we needed a specialist on the case.
The tie had been causing all kinds of gumming and chewing and incredibly vigorous sucking – and with it sincere bafflement, because of course all the specialists had confirmed the latch looked fine but some nasty cracks were still happening. The most common advice I’d been given was to just keep at it, continue feeding and everything would heal by itself. Everything did not heal by itself. The more I fed the wider the cracks opened until they became craters, and the situation was worsened by a yeast infection caused by antibiotics given at delivery and diagnosed five weeks later by a lovely lady from La Leche League. (I still don’t much like their website but the lady was brilliant and really set us on the road to recovery).
We’re now doing much better – I found the advice on this page really helpful for getting everything back in one piece – but I’m residually annoyed that so much of the well-meaning advice given at breastfeeding clinics was so misguided. Correcting latch and positioning are of course sensible and necessary steps towards sorting out nipple injuries and feeding problems, but my experience (and that of my NCT buddy, who had a very similar experience but with an upper lip tie) is that some breastfeeding consultants trust far too much to “carry on and it will fix itself” as something between mantra and dogma. In both our cases, clinic volunteers tried to tell us our diagnosed conditions weren’t applicable (ie that we didn’t have them!), which is really quite dangerous advice and makes me think twice about attending clinics and breastfeeding groups in the future. And that’s a shame, because they’re great places to hang out and you get free biscuits and some actually good advice on breastfeeding technique.
What I would say to any new mum having problems breastfeeding (especially if you’re fairly sure you’re doing it right and are baffled as well as sore) is:
- by all means, attend your local breastfeeding clinic or clinics if you’re lucky enough to be in an area with more than one – they will have useful advice about positioning and can help with your breastfeeding confidence;
- …but if problems continue, get trained medical staff on the case. Your GP or midwife will be able to diagnose common problems such as thrush (which can prevent cracks from healing, so get that sorted if you find that’s the case); and don’t be afraid to ask for a referral to a pediatric specialist if you think a little mild surgery may be in order.
- If anyone tries, however well-meaningly, to dissuade you from looking into the above, IGNORE THAT SHIT. Specifically ignore anyone who tells you your condition is “overdiagnosed”, or tries to make their own diagnosis with but a cursory look and no background information. That is not a proper medical examination, and you have the right to proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Do give the La Leche League a ring, I found them both practically helpful and really comforting in an hour of great need.
All this assumes you want to continue breastfeeding. Maybe you want to try exclusively breastpumping, maybe you want to go combi with formula, maybe you want to go all-bottle. Go to it, sister, and all power to you. But if you want that baby-boob connection and are struggling, the right help is available – so insist on it.
A useful article on the issue: themilkmeg.com/when-unexplained-breastfeeding-pain-is-an-indicator-of-tongue-and-lip-ties