Nicole's Journey

Nicole 3

On April 1st 2015, April Fool’s Day, we were “fooled.” We chose to wait to find out the sex of our baby until his/her birth day.  I was convinced we were having a boy. At 1:34p, after 36 hours of labor, we welcomed our beautiful daughter Quinn into the world at a local valley birth center.

My beautiful, healthy daughter had arrived safely and I was ready to nourish this new life. After some coaxing, Quinn latched onto my breast about an hour after birth. As a first time mom and brand new baby, we were both trying to figure things out. Breastfeeding was not as intuitive as I had hoped and Quinn was having difficulties staying latched. My midwife and I noticed that she had a tongue tie and so began our journey…

Quinn was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie & a lip tie at her 1st pediatrician visit. As a new Mom I did not want to put my child through any unnecessary pain so we were going to monitor her weight for the next week and at her follow up appointment assess if a lip and/or tongue tie revision was necessary.

The first 2 weeks were rough!! I was feeding her every 15 minutes to 1 hour around the clock! I had done my research, took multiple classes prior, and knew breastfed babies ate ALL the time but I just felt not like this. My nipples hurt so badly, they were cracked and felt like they were constantly on fire. I would cringe & sometimes cry at just the thought of having to nurse. I just wanted to enjoy bonding with my child and have that beautiful experience of being able to nourish her with the food my body created.  I didn’t understand why this was so painful, but from what I had read and had been told, I thought it was just part of the process, and I needed to be tough, but something inside just felt this couldn’t be right. And oh was I right (trust your instincts, mammas. You do know best)!

Well, after the first week, at our follow up visit to the doctor she was not back up to her birth weight so we scheduled the revision with a provider for the following week. 

The revision was a success! Or so we thought. The 1st week following the procedure was emotionally taxing. I was exhausted from having a new baby and no time to catch up on sleep, in pain barley able to walk from a pulled muscle during labor, and then my daughter who I barely knew was in pain. I was just learning her cues, the sounds of her cries, and this totally threw a wrench in that. I had a crying child and didn’t know if she was hungry or in pain. It was heartbreaking, but I pushed through. If your child has never had a tongue or lip tie revision, look up “post frenectomy stretches/exercises.” You have to do these exercises a minimum of 4 times a day for 2-3 weeks. Can you say, Ouch?! Being the source of your child’s pain yet knowing what you are doing is helping them in the long run is a hard pill to swallow as a parent, especially 2 weeks into parenthood. However, I knew what I was doing was going to allow her to breastfeed efficiently so she could gain weight and we could have a successful breastfeeding relationship.

After the revision she was gaining weight steadily until all of a sudden she plateaued. What happened? Her tongue tie had reattached 7 weeks later! Reattachment is a possibility, but we thought we were in the clear. Well, apparently babies have a big growth spurt around 8 weeks and with that her tongue decided to reattach.

At this time she was not breastfeeding efficiently and that caused my milk supply to drop and remain low.  We needed her to gain weight but I wanted to exhaust all options before resorting to formula. Our next choice was donor milk!  I was fortunate to have 2 great mommy friends who offered their help. I am forever grateful for their love and support (and milk!). I was elated for donor milk, but ultimately wanted to be able to exclusively breastfeed my child. In order to keep my supply up, I would have to pump. And for me that meant 6 times a day. This has been a marathon.

 Throughout my journey I have been working with an amazing IBCLC and without her support I don’t know if I would have made it this far. I have wanted to give up numerous times, but I can’t imagine feeding Quinn any other way. This is something I have dreamed of and cannot picture it differently. With her tongue reattaching I was faced with a tough decision. Do I put her through another procedure? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Am I being selfish? These were tough questions that sometimes still pop into my head. Well, my gut said, “Yes, let's do another procedure.” But my head asked, “What was different this time?”

We learned Quinn’s jaw was extremely tight. This tightness was preventing a full release of her tongue and we determined she needed body work: in the form of chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy.  After a few sessions she had her lip tie revised and a partial tongue revision. It was partial because her jaw was still too tight to allow the provider to open her mouth wide enough to complete the procedure. So fast forward to July 2015 and Quinn has continued therapy and seen improvements and had a 3rd and final revision due to another plateau in weight. She has gained over a pound in less than 2 weeks and continues to steadily gain weight! The 3rd procedure was the hardest to go through because she was more aware and also seemed to be in more pain, but we are getting through it! We are 2 weeks post procedure, 4 months into our breastfeeding relationship, and things are looking up!

This has been the biggest challenge I have ever faced in my life, but the most meaningful. It is for Quinn and her well-being.  For her future.  For her life. I have the ability to produce milk and it may mean I have to pump 6-8x a day, in addition to nursing her, and supplementing via bottle with my milk and donor milk, but it is my choice. And I’m lucky. I’m lucky I am able to be a stay at home mom and have the time to put in the extra work. It has been hard at times to see it that way but I am fortunate for the breastfeeding relationship we do have. It may not look like I thought it would but it is still changing and I’m determined to make it at least a year. I am thankful for the support of my tribe aka mommy group, pediatrician, birth team, my family, and my partner. I am so thankful for my partner. Without his unconditional love and support throughout this I don’t know where I’d be. Sometimes I do not know how I have done it, but am grateful I have.  I have proven to be stronger than I ever thought I was or could be and for that I would not change a thing.  For any moms out there struggling to make it another day, you can do it! Take it 1 feeding at a time and find your support! That could be a friend, in person or online support group, family, Facebook group, just someone who you can vent to and reassure you that what you are doing is worth it because the days can feel long and isolating but remember it is not forever.  I have to remember that. Cherish these moments as tomorrow is not promised and knowing you gave your all, makes it worth it!

Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

               You CAN do this!

                                 ~Nicole Caldwell~

* Editor's Note*

We're so grateful mothers have shared these breastfeeding journeys with you!  These are the personal experiences of mothers, and do not constitute medical advice.  Please speak with your physician and/or lactation consultant before making decisions about yours and your baby's care.