I started to worry that something was wrong when Charlotte was 3 months old. She was breastfeeding hourly during the day, and her night sleep was going backwards – she’d previously slept for 4-5 hour stretches, but was now starting to wake up every 1-2 hours. Breastfeeding still hurt and my nipples were cracked and bruised.
Family, friends and professionals all assured me that she was normal and/or her problems were my fault. They said she was just a bad sleeper, I was trying to get her to sleep too much during the day, she was just comfort feeding, I needed to teach her to self-soothe, it was normal for breastfeeding to hurt, my nipples would stop hurting if I’d stop letting her comfort feed, etc. etc…
I’d heard of tongue and lip ties before, but because she was breastfeeding and gaining weight steadily, I didn’t think it was possible for her to have them. Plus I thought if there was a problem surely one of the doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, midwives or osteopath I’d already seen would have picked up on it! So I listened to those around me, ignored my mummy instincts, and watched my happy, contented baby turn into a cranky, overtired unhappy little girl
By the time Charlotte was 4 months old, she was feeding hourly around the clock and only sleeping for 10-20 minutes at a time during the day. Someone in my mother’s group suggested she might have tongue and lip ties, so I did some research and realised that we had most of the symptoms. I took her to a IBCLC who was experienced with ties, and she confirmed that Charlotte had a lip tie and posterior tongue tie. She gave me a list of providers that could revise her ties and showed me some techniques that could help with breastfeeding in the interim.
Because of Charlotte’s ties, she was having to work really hard to breastfeed, so she was falling asleep or giving up before her belly was full, so she was feeding frequently to compensate. This was why she was still gaining weight, but she was exhausted, which was actually making it harder for her to sleep. She was getting worse as she got older, because as she got bigger she needed to consume larger amounts of milk.
We decided to have her ties revised, and chose a dentist that specialised in revising tongue & lip ties using laser (rather than scissors). Here’s a breakdown of the days following her revision:
As instructed, I fed Charlotte 2 hours before our appointment, and gave her Panadol 1 hour beforehand. When we arrived at the dental surgery, a dental assistant greeted us and took us up the hall. There were meeting rooms with frosted glass up one side of the hall and treatment rooms with clear glass windows up the other side of the hall.
We were taken into a meeting room and the dental nurse asked us a number of questions about Charlotte and my experience breastfeeding. She then showed my husband and I the stretches we’d have to do following the revision (to prevent the ties from re-attaching). Then the dentist came in and had a chat with us about the information we’d given the dental nurse, examined Charlotte, and answered our questions. She was lovely and gave Charlotte a big cuddle and made her laugh.
Then it was time to actually do the revisions. She told me not to go anywhere and be ready to breastfeed because she would be back in 3 minutes! She took Charlotte across the hall to one of the treatment rooms and we stayed in the meeting room. She preferred that parents wait in the meeting room, but we had the option of going with her to the treatment room or watching through the window if we really wanted to. We heard Charlotte crying, which was heartbreaking, but she didn’t sound overly distressed and she only cried for about 30 seconds. After about 3-5 minutes the dentist came back with Charlotte. Charlotte looked a little upset but she wasn’t crying.
I fed Charlotte immediately and it was AMAZING! Her latch was perfect and it tickled instead of hurting! However, we were warned that Charlotte might slip back into her old feeding style out of habit if I wasn’t proactive about re-training her and she advised that I go back to my IBCLC for further help.
Once the dentist was satisfied that Charlotte was feeding correctly, she said goodbye and left us alone in the meeting room. After Charlotte finished feeding we put her in our Ergo and she was asleep a few minutes later (she’s usually never that easy to get to sleep!). We drove over to my husband’s work to drop him off and Charlotte kept sleeping in the car. She slept for about 1.5 hours, which was really impressive compared to her usual 10-20 minute naps. When she woke up and I gave her another feed which once again felt great. We then headed to her next appointment.
Our dentist recommended that we see a cranial chiropractor with experience in tongue & lip ties, to help loosen up the muscles that had previously been constricted due to the ties, so we made an appointment for later in the day. When we arrived Charlotte was still in a great mood and was smiling at everyone in the waiting room. The chiropractor was lovely and very gentle. There was absolutely no bone cracking and Charlotte appeared to enjoy the treatment.
On the way home Charlotte went to sleep almost immediately, but woke up 20 minutes later when we got home. She was pretty cranky, but I’m not sure if this was because she was in pain or because she was woken up from her nap. I gave her some more Panadol and some frozen breastmilk in a mesh feeder to suck on. She was very unsettled for the rest of the afternoon. At 5pm we had a warm bath and that helped to settle her. I got her ready for bed, gave her a feed and she was sound asleep by 6pm. Getting her to sleep was so much easier than usual, I took this as a sign that we were going to have a good night!
We went to sleep at 10pm and Charlotte was still sound asleep! We were so excited! Charlotte woke up at 11pm and I fed her back to sleep. She’d slept for 5 hours! She woke up again 4 hours later. This was an incredible improvement for a little girl that had previously been waking hourly!
Unfortunately it didn’t last. I gave her another feed but this time she wouldn’t go back to sleep. I was almost constantly feeding and patting her for the rest of the night, until she finally went back to sleep at some point in the early hours of the morning. I was so disappointed – the night had started out so well!
Charlotte slept in until 7.30am (a big sleep-in for her), she had a feed and we played for about an hour before she wanted another feed. I was a bit concerned about her wanting to feed again after only an hour, but her latch was still good and she seemed to be getting more milk, although she did keep pulling back to get back to the shallow latch position that she was used to, so I had to keep re-latching her.
Charlotte had never taken a dummy before – we’d tried a few different types but she spat them all out. We assumed it was because she didn’t like them, but after researching ties, I realised she might not be able to hold them in her mouth. So I thought I would try having another go with a dummy and this time she took it, started sucking on it, and fell asleep! I felt like I had a whole new baby!
She was in a good mood for the rest of the day, and her naps lasted for 1-2 hours. I was so happy that we were already seeing so much improvement! I did the stretches every 4 hours and Charlotte clearly didn’t enjoy them, but she didn’t cry or seem overly bothered by them. She didn’t have any Panadol or other medication all day because I didn’t want to medicate her unless she was actually in pain.
In the evening she started to get really upset. I gave her some Panadol and some more frozen breastmilk to suck on and that calmed her down pretty quickly. She feel asleep after having another feed and slept for another 2 hours. So all up she slept for over 5 hours during the day! A huge achievement for her!
She went to sleep for the night at 8pm, but then she was waking every 1-2 hours and not wanting to go back to sleep.
At 5am she was wide awake and screamed at our attempts to try to get her back to sleep. We gave her some Panadol which seemed to help. She had a half hour sleep in the morning, a 40 minute sleep at lunch time, and then a 2 hour sleep in the afternoon. For most of the day she was very unsettled and spent a lot time screaming and crying inconsolably. I gave her some more frozen breastmilk to suck on and this seemed to help a lot.
It took us over an hour to get her to sleep for the night, and then she was awake again after 40 minutes, and then again after 60 minutes, and it was a battle to get her asleep again. We were prepared for a bad night, but we actually ended up having the best night ever! We went to sleep at 10pm and then I woke up at 2am and Charlotte was still sound asleep! I did her stretches (which woke her up), gave her a feed, and she went straight back to sleep and didn’t wake up again until 5am!
Once again Charlotte was up at 5am, but at least she woke up in a great mood.
Today we went to the IBCLC again to work on improving Charlotte’s latch. The IBCLC showed me the correct way to latch her now that her ties were fixed, and she also showed me some exercises to do with Charlotte to help strengthen and re-train the muscles in her mouth that had been restricted due to the ties. She explained that Charlotte was now using muscles that she’s never used before, so she’d still find it tiring to feed until she built strength in those muscles. It was like having a newborn again in a sense because she was having to learn to feed all over again. The IBCLC said it would take about a month for her to transition through all the stages of recovery following the revisions.
For the rest of the day Charlotte was in a pretty good mood and didn’t appear to be in any pain. She didn’t have any medication and barely cried the whole day. She had two 40 minute naps in the car, and a 2 hour nap in her bed in the afternoon! Overnight she woke every 2 hours but at least she went straight back to sleep after a feed every time.
Today was probably the worst day of the week. Charlotte was very unsettled and spent a lot of the day crying. But she also cut a tooth, so I think she probably would have been miserable anyway. Getting her to sleep for the night was a 2 hour ordeal, and when she finally went to sleep in my husbands arms he was too scared to put her down!
End of first week
A week has passed since Charlotte had her ties revised and I have definitely seen a lot of improvement. She’s sleeping for 1-2 hours at a time during the day, sleeping for 3-4 hours overnight, going straight back to sleep after a feed at night, and her tummy problems have completely vanished! I can’t believe she’s already improved so much after just one week! Feeding is now pain-free if she latches correctly, but hurts if she pulls back to the shallow latch position that she is used to, so I have to keep re-latching her (which hurts too!)
After one month
We’re now at the one month mark and I’m feeling very disappointed and questioning why we did the procedure in the first place. Charlotte’s ties are now fully healed and hasn’t been nearly as much improvement has I had hoped for. Charlotte has gone back to feeding in her shallow latch position, and no amount of re-attaching will get her to feed correctly. DH thinks I should go back to the IBCLC, but I’m sick of spending money on the problem and getting no where!
Breastfeeding is now more painful than it had ever been and I I’ve decided to switch to bottle feeding when Charlotte turned 6 months. This is going to be a nightmare to do because Charlotte really loves her boobie and often it’s the only way I can calm her or get her to sleep, and I really wanted to let her self-wean. But my nipples are cracked and bleeding, hurting all the time, and I felt like bursting into tears every time she’s due for feed. I was so determined to breastfeed for as long as possible, but I’ve reached my breaking-point now.
Her sleep has gone backwards again too so she’s waking every 1-2 hours at night, and her sleep in inconsistent during the day.
After 6 weeks
It’s now been 7 weeks since Charlotte’s ties were revised and everything has changed!
After 6 weeks (which was a couple of weeks before Charlotte turned 6 months old) Charlotte started to latch correctly (all by herself!) and breastfeeding suddenly stopped hurting. My nipples recovered from the damage quickly and I was completely pain-free! I couldn’t believe it!
Charlotte’s sleep also started to improve again and she now sleeps for 4-5 hours at night (which I am happy to live with), and she has 2x 2 hour sleeps and a 45 minute sleep during the day.
After 6 months of drama, I finally find breastfeeding enjoyable and feel like I could keep going forever!
I did the maths and worked out that I’ve spent about the same amount of money (for consultation fees, etc.) to get the problem fixed as I would have spent on formula, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything (except for maybe my sanity for a while there!). I’ve also possibly avoided the expense of speech and dental problems down the track, so overall I’m happy to have spent the money, and I’m more than happy with the improvements that we have had.