Baby Feeding

Am I being punished for attempting to breastfeed my child? 

Tongue ties and small mouths…

I’ve had some heartbreaking disappointments with breastfeeding as I’ve written about before.

 The pain of not being able to breastfeed my daughter consumed me and to the day I still consider what went wrong and what I could have done differently! 

Although never diagnosed I do wonder if my oldest had a tongue tie. My daughter’s inability to latch was dismissed with that she had a “little mouth” and that I had a “large chest” and as a young, first time mother who already doubted herself I didn’t even question the logic behind that statement- a statement that stopped me from questioning and made me just do as I was told. 

As I spent months trying to breastfeed my baby girl I kept hoping her mouth would suddenly grow bigger and with this new super mouth she would latch on like a pro.

Ridiculous as it sounds, I was told very matter of fact by a midwife, that this child my body had grown was somehow incompatible with her mother. That although I was able to grow her from a tiny cell in to a beautiful, perfect baby, nature had been terribly cruel and made sure that we weren’t a good fit! What’s the likelihood of that

Of course, it’s not impossible that we simply were a poor match! But as I’ve gone on to learn more about breastfeeding and completed my breastfeeding peer support training, I feel more inclined to believe that my daughter was indeed born with a toungue tie which went unoticed despite the endless hours spent at a breastfeeding clinic. It wasn’t even considered nor fully investigated although she had some of the more common symptoms associated with a tie! 

She struggled to take a bottle of expressed breastmilk, had terrible eosaphagues reflux and even struggled to “latch on” to a soother. 
If a mother explained this type of scenario to me, the first thing I would have questioned is if the baby had a tie and I feel this is a question which isn’t asked enough.

A breastfeeding health professional once told me to not pay too much attention to the “current hype“, if tougue ties. Ties were dismissed as the new “trendy” breastfeeding issue and was to be somewhat ignored if she was to believe. This I find confusing to say the least as well as concerning. If this is the attitude of those who are supposed to support breastfeeding journeys, it’s no wonder we have breastfeeding rates that are pretty much non excitant. 

So is it really that ties are a sudden hype or have they infact excisted for as long as humanity but as with a lot of breastfeeding knowledge, its been somewhat forgotten. Knowledge which would have been passed from generation to generation has been almost completely erased as a result of the socially pushed, “bottle feeding culture“; and as such we are having to relearn the most basic response of human nature. 

Breastfeeding hasn’t gotten harder- we have forgotten how to do it.

I’ve read  several accounts for historical “tongue ties” or the medically correct term ankyloglossia. It has been documented that in the past a tie would have been assessed soon after baby was born! The midwife would have been able to recognise it instantly and would even have separated it there and then, likely with a long, sharp finger nail. 

Sounds primitive, doesn’t it? Yet it seems that this was actually a more efficient way to support both mothers and babies to have a healthy breastfeeding relationship! 

The tie’s were separated and the babies went on to nurse effectively. Today you need to have pain, and issues. Baby need to have slow weight gain or excessive weight loss and some even display symptoms of reflux and excessive wind. Both mother and baby must almost be at breaking point for a referral to be made to have the tie assessed and possibly separated. 

This often take a few more weeks, if you’re lucky enough to get one at all. No wonder women reach for the bottle in these times. 

If it used to be so easy and resolved with little fuss, how come ties are now destroying breastfeeding relationships leaving us with lover rates, distressed mothers and babies who are missing out on their mothers milk? Why are we making things harder then they need to be?

I live in a part of the world where breastfeeding is pushed by health agencies. Where slogans have been invented and repeated to us on loop. We are told about the so called “benefits” of breastfeeding (instead of simply being told It’s  what’s optimal and natural for humans). We are overloaded with information on how important breastfeeding is, but not realistic expectations and how to do it! where is the support to back the encouragement up?

The advice is hugely contradicting with what’s seen as socially acceptable! Socially, breastfeeding is stigmatised and abused. Ridiculed and sexualised. Mothers who are breastfeeding can face harsh criticism and then there is only minimal support to find from health professional when things get tough.

Medical professionals who are fully capable in supporting breastfeeding mothers are few and far apart! 
The feeling of being pulled in all corners, and criticised by all camps, is a difficult one! This ongoing pressure to do what’s optimal followed by a lack of support is affecting new mothers mental health and confidence. 

You give birth to your child, this innocent little being who becomes your entire world. You get adviced to do what’s best for you both and breastfeed. Some mothers go on to have a difficult journey, some may have excessive pain, and inefficient latch others may end up having to be treated for mastitis or other breastfeeding related issues. You can feel something isn’t right but as a devoted mother you push through the pain with minimal support. 

Everyone tells you the latch looks fine and that it will pass. You get told it’s normal. Many start questioning themself. Should it hurt this much?
It shouldn’t. 

Sometimes I feel strongly that as a society we encourage mothers to breastfeed yet at the first sign of trouble we retract the encouragement and withold the support. Its almost as though mothers whom choose to breastfeed and have any type of difficulties to do so, get punished with lack of support and medical intervention. Suddenly many suggest to give a bottle of formula to the baby!

But how is it, that before a mother need any type of support breastfeeding is all the jazz, but with the first little glitch she get told a bottle of formula will do the trick? Suddenly “fed is best”! 

Its easy to see why many new mothers end up confused and distraught.
I truly believe that mothers are at risk of mental health issues; not as a result of pressure to breastfeed but I believe the contradicting advice and hypocrisy mixed with a hefty dose of “no support” is what has a negative effect. Its like telling someone to fly an airplane with no wings. The support should be instant and constantantly available.

Imagine if we recognised that ankyloglossia isn’t a trend, but a real and limiting condition likely as a result of labour interventions and inductions. What if we trained enough professionals to fully be able to support and recognise a need to “snip“! What if we made these professionals available on  maternity wards to assess babies and mothers who were potentially struggling. 

We can’t keep pushing breastfeeding as the optimal way to feed a baby yet not support mothers when there are issues restricting the success! 

A baby’s  mouth size shouldn’t be a valid excuse to deny support to a new mother

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