Breastfeeding has been one of the hardest and most painful things for me. It hasn't been easy for us and I have cried many tears over it. Some days I hate it. But most of the time? I love it, despite, or maybe in spite, of all we have been through.
When my daughter was born, she immediately latched. My midwife asked if it hurt and I told her, "a little." She then adjusted my daughter's chin and things felt better. But try as I might, I could not get a pain free latch on my own. I began to dread my baby needing to nurse. I would cringe when she cried, and then curl my toes in agony as she nursed. Everyone told me it would get better so I kept pushing through. After a couple of days I began to pump and would alternate bottles and breastfeeding to give my nipples a break. But I didn't want to do this for forever.
I had no idea while I was pregnant that breastfeeding could be so hard so I never thought to learn about it, nor did I know where to go for help. I didn't even think to call my midwife for help so I began looking for resources in my community (not Grey/Bruce at the time) on my own. Everywhere I looked there were LC's charging $150 for a visit. It was Christmas and we were in the process of selling our house and buying a new one. I didn't have money to spend. I found a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor who saw us for $30. Unfortunately my baby slept through the appointment. I went home though and tried the things we talked about with no success.
Then I discovered the local hospital has a LC so I went there. Except it was only for babies under 7 days old. My baby was now 3 weeks. Instead I saw a public health nurse who assured me everything looked fine and it should get better soon. I was told to come back if I was still having problems. I went back a week later. A different nurse assured things looked fine, but this time told me if things didn't get better, I was to come back to see what they could figure out. I left feeling frustrated since I was already back because things weren't getting better.
I finally spoke with my midwife who arranged for me to see a LC covered by OHIP. I was so optimistic thinking I would get some help. The LC looked for a tongue tie, and even though my daughter had one, told me it wasn't severe enough to effect breastfeeding. She then proceeded to tell me my problem was oversupply and handed me some printouts from the Internet that really didn't tell me anything.
I went home and researched all I could about tongue ties. I then sought a second opinion, travelling 3 hours in a snowstorm. When I got there, I was told my daughter would probably be better off just with some "bodywork" done (massage, sacro-cranial, chiropractic care, etc.), though she would laser the tie anyways since I came all that way. Not knowing at the time if my husband's benefits were going to cover it, and because I came for a second opinion and once again was being told lasering the tie probably wasn't going to fix our problems, I chose not to since it was over $400.
I went home and started massage therapy for my baby. She was already being seen by our chiropractor. Although the massage therapist felt some tissue release, breastfeeding didn't get any less painful for me.
A few weeks after we started massage, we ended up moving to Hanover. While settling in, I traveled back to see the original breastfeeding counselor I had seen. She assessed my then 4.5 month old and said there was still a fair amount of oral restriction. I went back home, and saw a LC in this area who said everything looked fine so it was probably the tongue tie causing my issues.
I made an appointment with another dentist to have the tie lasered. The dentist told me I probably wouldn't see an immediate improvement (she'd been nursing "wrong" for 5.5 months by that time). However, right after the tie released, the dentist told me I might because her tongue was more severely tied that it had seemed at first. I nursed her in the dental office and felt a significant improvement.
Unfortunately though, it still wasn't perfect. Fast forward to today, where my baby is 9.5 months, and I can finally say we are starting to get perfect, pain free latches. Certainly not all the time, but they are happening more and more often. It gives me hope that one day my nipples won't be sore anymore.
Sometimes I sit and wonder what would have happened if my daughter's poor latch had caused under supply instead of oversupply, which came with its own problems (I spent the first 6 months with leaky, engorged breasts, had a baby with terrible gas, etc.). Some days I think maybe I would have been taken more seriously when I said there was a problem, but more often than not, I think I probably would have just been handed formula. Don't get me wrong, formula is definitely needed, however I think what is needed more is better education about breastfeeding for health care practitioners. Easier access to LC's. People willing to listen when a mother says there is something wrong.
Public Health responds…
You make an excellent point that health care professionals need more breastfeeding training. While your story speaks to the fact we still have a long way to go, we are seeing progress in our region to ensure mothers are supported to start and continue breastfeeding. Many health care organizations are implementing the Baby Friendly Initiative. Launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, this is a global effort to improve the standard of mother and infant care, and in doing so, increase breastfeeding rates in the process. A major component of Baby Friendly involves education of health care providers to better support families to breastfeed. Locally, the Grey Bruce Health Unit, the Hanover Family Health Team and the Hanover and District Hospital are working on their Baby Friendly designation, with several other area organizations planning to do so. Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound recently achieved their designation and is one of only four hospitals in the province with this title.
Stories like yours highlight the importance of this work and the need for it to continue. Thank you so much for your submission!
Grey Bruce Health Unit