My Boobs Are Sore - a sorry tale of the early weeks of breastfeeding a tongue tied baby.
Somebody asked me would I write a blog post about the early days of breastfeeding and how we’re getting on. Disclaimer: this is not a how-to, it’s just an account of how I’m finding it all, and you wouldn’t want a how-to from me anyway because me and my babies are absolutely fucking shite at breastfeeding. To be honest, I feel quite apprehensive about writing about this subject, Thomas isn’t even six weeks old and things haven’t been going swimmingly for us *at all*, I’m reluctant to talk about it because I kinda don’t want to look back in a few months’ time and think “Jaysus I was in a right sorry state and loopy to boot.” But sure what mam of a newborn isn’t in that condition and what better than a right-in-the-thick-of-it super honest account of breastfeeding from someone who has been unlucky with their “journeys”, and someone who, I’ll just come out and say it, dislikes it but is disturbingly stubborn to the point of serious detriment.
Both my babies have what’s called a “shallow latch” and were diagnosed with posterior tongue ties by an IBCLC (that's an international board certified lactation consultant), I chose to have them revised and found it helped to a degree but not entirely, there are different schools of thought on the procedure (which involves a snip with a scissors by a trained physician - we saw a lovely surgeon in Blackrock Clinic), some people believe it just takes time and for baby’s mouths to get bigger, regardless, the procedure, while expensive, is anecdotally very effective for many and causes baby no major pain or distress. I did extensive research and made the choice to have it done, do I think it’s a magic fix? No. Did it help? Somewhat. But all told, considering the state my nipples and breasts (and, as a result, my mental well being) were in - and this is very far beyond the usual pain and discomfort of first few weeks of breastfeeding by the by - I don’t regret making that choice for me and my boys, even if I think time, extra sessions with the lactation consultant and body work (massage and craniosacral) likely did just as much to help the situation.
So here we are now, almost six weeks into my little fellow’s life and there’s still lots of ups and down, his latch is still pretty crapola but I’ve managed to wean slowly off the nipple shields. I will absolutely need physio on my neck shoulder and jaw from tensing up like mad on every single latch but we’re getting by. I’m not a martyr by the way, I’m not enjoying it but I have bullied myself into thinking that I have to do it, logically I know I don’t have to and probably should be more mindful of my well-being but who the hell is logical with a six week old or even when it comes to half the aspects of parenting for all of time?! You know, I think it’s extra hard for me to make any sort of choice about stopping or supplementing with formula because my wonderful sisters are both breastfeeding small babies too and I think I’d just feel like absolute shite if I was the only one not giving my baby breastmilk. Tough to admit to that and don’t want to drag anyone else into my troubles but there you have it, it’s definitely a big part of it, and sure I said I'd be honest. Sorry Zaz and Rach, it's not your faults in the slightest, it's all on me and my weirdo competitive personality, comparison is indeed the thief of joy... and the thief of nipples that aren't battered and bleeding, it would appear.
I breastfed my older boy until he was 11 months old and I never really enjoyed it, I never had a completely comfortable feed, I had maybe 3 or 4 times where I felt that soaring blissful love you hear breastfeeding mamas talk about, 3 or 4 times, in almost a year of feeding and what must have been thousands of latch ons, I got post-natal depression and definitely believe it was linked to a hugely difficult time breastfeeding, that combined with my anxious disposition and a colicky baby who never slept. So, I swore up and down and all over town I wouldn’t put myself through that again. LOL!! And here I am. If anything I’m worse this time around, I keep thinking I'd be killed with the guilt that one boy got almost a year of boob milk so I must do at least the same for this one, also, last time I supplemented from early on, this time I’m trying to avoid that. What in the actual heckfire is wrong with me?!
Yep, I’m willingly sacrificing my own mental health for a second time because of some nonsense (and, let's be real here, embarrassingly middle class) notion that breastfeeding is the only way, a standard I only apply to myself by the way, as I’m firmly of the belief that a woman can and should feed their child however the heck they wish and whatever way that is should be wholly supported and enabled by everyone else that comes near them both virtually and IRL. But I’m also just waiting, I have this weird blind faith that it must improve, it’s just got to! And we’ve been really lucky in other aspects, Big T (as I’ve nicknamed Thomas my youngest) is gaining like mad, he is a total chunker, so no issues on that front. He’s also a very chilled baby who’s giving us all a tolerable amount of sleep, I’m not as anxious, I’ve definitely had wobbly moments regarding my mental health but I’m much more aware of it and getting support and help for that too. So, I’m not sure what’ll happen with the auld boobs but I remain optimistic and remind myself that it’s not the end of anyone’s world if I decide to stop (an aside: I really dislike hearing it being called “giving up” btw, such insulting and defeatist language about women who I know have tried their absolute damnedest to make breastfeeding work but the information and supports weren’t there - they are truly abysmal in this country, that’s a post for another day though)… anyway… watch this space I guess….
PS: as per usual, no advice required, I’ve no doubt we’ve exhausted any of the things you’re thinking of suggesting!! Would absolutely love to hear your stories and honest accounts of breastfeeding in the comments though. I believe sharing our stories is healing, helpful and far more valuable than any advice.