Our next blog post in our guest blog series is from Kate Woulfe. She shares her breastfeeding story and how she managed tongue tie, guilt she felt and how breastfeeding is the hardest thing she loves. Below is her story;
When I was pregnant, I was asked regularly how I would feed my child, my answer was always the same, “I’m planning to breastfeed but I’m not putting pressure on myself. If it works out great, if not then that’s fine too”.
I very naively thought it would be easy, pop the baby onto boob, et voilà. I could not have been more wrong. It’s like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have to fit, you can’t just bash them together and hope!
Our journey has not been linear, there have been, and continue to be, many peaks and troughs.
When my daughter was three weeks old we were referred to a Doctor (at a breastfeeding clinic) through the PHN, due to concerns over poor weight gain and a lot of posseting. At the time we were trying to decipher if she had reflux or colic. The appointment was the day before Paddy’s day (so long weekend). I attended the appointment by myself (my partner was outside in the car). I was quickly told she had posterior tongue tie, I was so desperate for her to gain weight at that stage I would have done anything. The Doctor in question said they could do the release at the appointment, so I agreed. What followed was horrendous. I was told the nurse was not available, so I was asked if I could clamp my daughters head whilst the Doctor released the TT via scissors. There was blood, screaming and of course tears. I fed her straight after, and she latched and the milk stopped the bleeding. No follow-up exercises or pain treatment plan were provided. The following two days she could not latch at all. The milk was drowning her but minimal was going in. I was so distraught and due to the long weekend neither that Doctor nor the PHN were contactable. I got support from the Cuidiu Breastfeeding Group via WhatsApp (amazing bunch of women). My feelings soon turned to rage, at the Doctor and at myself for allowing this to happen. I wish I knew I could have said no and went to think about it for a few days or got a second opinion. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! The following week, I got a phone call from said Doctor as a “follow up” and I explained how she could not latch for two whole days, my concerns were dismissed! For my own mental health and survival, I just left it at that and planned to lodge a formal complaint.
After the TT release, there was no massive improvement in weight gain, so we attended an Osteopath who referred us to a Lactation Consultant. Between those two ladies our journey massively improved. The Lactation Consultant in turn referred us to the National TT Centre in Clonmel. Off we went to Clonmel, where it was confirmed that the TT had reattached (no massive surprise) and wow, what an experience. The professionalism and service was second to none. My daughter was taken away for the procedure (TT released via CO2 laser) and when she came back to the room she was so calm she was almost asleep. The aftercare was brilliant and I honestly could not fault anything about the whole experience.
From there on her oral function improved massively, she now had a tongue she could use (once shown how, through various exercises).
So they were her issues, my boobs themselves have had their fair share of issues also, blocked ducts, mastitis, blebs, and vasospasm. Annoying/irritating/painful as they are, they always pass. Always. Some days it was/is so bad I take it feed by feed. And that is what you have to sometimes do to get through it. I always knew I was stubborn/headstrong but I never expected to feel this way about breastfeeding.
Various people have commented “why not just think about giving up/just give up” at many points throughout. I know their intentions were coming from a good place, but those comments are very unhelpful when you’re already in an extremely vulnerable place. Instead, I wished they would have asked “what can I do to help” or “what do you need from me”.
“They” say it takes a village, these days you have to pay for that village. My advice is to get help/support from a specialised professional, trust your gut, only you know your baby best. Seek advice from friends and family who have breastfed also, but remember everyone's journey is different.
So, here we are 6 months (and two bottom teeth) in! I’m not planning on giving up any time soon. I love the bond, the connection, the rush of love, the closeness, her hands rubbing my face and her smiling up at me. It makes it all worthwhile. The good definitely outweighs the difficult.
I saw a quote that said “breastfeeding is the hardest thing I love” and I think that sums it up perfectly, and remember, if in doubt, whip it out.