Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This is what I've been doing

I've been out of the loop for so long. The morning my grandson was born my life changed.  My daughter came home from the hospital with this beautiful baby boy who wouldn't breastfeed. He was finger fed in the hospital, and she was encouraged to use shields and feeding syringes to to feed him. Nothing had worked and yet they sent her home. They supplemented him with formula at the hospital regardless of the big sign that said "I'm a breastfed baby."  And they sent her home with formula. Lots of it.
In a few days my husband had to go back to Maine. But I stayed here to help wean the baby off the bottle and onto the breast. It was not an easy job! He would have none of it and screamed bloody murder when a breast approached.(Now that's a picture!)
My daughter went through the typical post partum blues stuff. I kept her encouraged, fed, watered and corralled so she could just concentrate on pumping milk and feeding her son. She was exhausted. Pumping for an hour, feeding for 40 minutes, eating something for 5 minutes, trying to nap for 15 min. and start the sole routine again. When we realized that she could pump both sides at the same time it cut the pumping time in half. When she realized she could eat while pumping we shaved another five minutes off. Now she had a choice of a longer attempt at sleeping OR she could shower!
After a bit, we found that it was not THAT vital that mom be the only one to bottle feed, freeing up more time, as she could pump while the baby was eating.
By continually offering the breast and drizzling milk there when it hadn't letdown yet, he slowly got used to the idea that this was not a bad thing and stopped screaming at it.  However, no matter how much he wanted to, he could not seem to latch on.  A lactation consultant in the hospital had mentioned that his frenulum was a bit tight. We hadn't given that much thought, as he seemed normal enough to us and they had said and done other things in the hospital that hadn't given us the most confidence in them.  Both pediatricians that had seen him said that he was fine. And since he was gaining weight and being very healthy all around, they sent us on our merry way.
However, after three weeks of intense round the clock work and a couple VERY painful attempts by baby at nursing, we called in another lactation consultant to see if she had any words of wisdom.  She could see that he was gaining weight at a wonderful rate and that he wanted to nurse. He just had no ability to latch on.
This consultant also stated that the frenulum seemed a bit tight and the roof of his mouth had a high arch. So two lactation consultants said his frenulum needed to be snipped and two pediatricians said no.
After doing some research we decided we had to give the frenotomy a try. We had nothing to lose at this point and maybe a lot to gain if it worked.  One of the pediatricians who had seen him in the hospital was the only one we could find that did frenotomies. So we made the appointment on Thursday for the frenotomy on Monday afternoon.
When we got there the office was not busy, but we had to wait 15 minutes to get into the exam room, where he had to get woken up and stripped to get weighed. That took about one minute and then we had a screaming baby for 10 minutes while we waited for the doctor to show up.
At that point he looked at his records and said that he'd already looked at him in the hospital, and he was fine. We told him how he wouldn't nurse, couldn't latch correctly and the pumping routine was difficult to keep up. That's why he was doing so well, because mom wasn't!
We also mentioned that two LC's had said his frenulum might be too tight, a mild form of being tongue tied (although they hadn't used that term and neither did we). He told us they all say that about any baby that isn't nursing. AND he said that some babies just don't nurse! I couldn't believe what I was hearing from him. He said it was not necessary in this case,  and he showed us with a crude drawing on the exam table paper what a real tongue tied tongue would look like. We had of course already seen pictures of severe cases before. We hadn't even used the word tongue tied. Nor had we come in in a panic that this poor baby was tongue tied.
We asked what the down side would be if he clipped it.
Well, there would be pain and blood and chance of infection and it wouldn't accomplish anything because if your tongue was already moving freely cutting the frenulum wouldn't make it more free. Why would you put your baby through all that?
So then he sat back and watched us, waiting for us to say ok and leave.  But we didn't. My daughter and I looked at each other not knowing what we could do if this was truly not going to work, and if he was truly not going to do it.
However in the back of our minds was still the understanding that doctors since the 1950's have not been schooled in this since the advent of bottles (since babies who cannot nurse can usually drink from a bottle), that midwives used to routinely clip all frenulums with their fingernail at birth, and that he had the possibility of an unusual combination of high palate and tight frenulum meaning his tongue was just slightly short of being able to touch the roof of his mouth for the sucking action.
And then the doctor sealed the deal.  "I don't know why you would want to do this when his tongue is almost normal."
"It's almost normal?" we both asked.
"Yes," he answered, like we should be relieved about that.
And we were. But for a different reason.
"Then let's do it" we both said again at the same time (we must be related).
Almost normal was what we'd thought and why we were going to do it. We needed normal, or nursing was never going to work. Maybe it still wouldn't. But we'd gone from nursing repulsion to nursing desire in him in three weeks. We couldn't not know if this was the piece that was missing.
We had the frenulum cut. Fortunately we'd both read enough about it to know what it would entail. It would be harder on the mom than the baby. My daughter turned her back and covered her ears. I had to hold his strong arms. The nurse held his head and mouth. And the doctor did his job. It took only a few seconds. Baby was crying because he was being held down quite tightly. But he didn't get more upset when it was being clipped. And was quite happy when he was back in mom's arms. We left the office. No pain. No blood. No infection that I can even imagine happening with such a minor procedure.
And guess what. We went home, and he nursed. His mom and I cried.


  1. Donna, it's great to hear from you & about your daughter and grandchild. I'm so glad that everything worked out so very beautifully, & can't wait to see a pic again. Best wishes for continuing success!

  2. You have been busy since this baby came along! I am so glad things worked out. What a story you will have to share when he is older.

  3. Oh,my gosh! You two must be exhausted. So glad you stuck to your guns and everything worked out. How wonderful that you, your daughter, and your grandson have this time together. Your slice pretty much had me ready to yell at your doctor. I was ready to cheer at the end!

  4. Wow - what a lot of work, worry, wonder.

  5. This is an inspirational story - you there to help your daughter, a young mom not taking the easy solution of using a formula, both of you keeping looking for solutions, standing up for what you knew was right for the baby. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Your daughter was very fortunate that you were there for her. I can't imagine going through all that alone. Makes you want a doctor that will LISTEN.

    Glad everything turned out all right.


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