Outside and Tongue Tied

On the morning of the appointment to see the tongue-tie specialist we were in two minds about seeing her. We had all but decided to bottle feed with expressed milk and didn’t see any reason to change our minds on this. However, we thought that if Theo’s tongue-tie caused him any trouble in later life and we could have done something about now and didn’t, we would regret it. So with this in mind we attempted to leave the house and meet an appointment.
Anyone with children will know leaving the house at a specific time is no easy task. We had tried to go outside to Willy’s mum’s on the Sunday before, and that is just a 10 minute walk away (it was a stressful time of poo; nappy and clothes changes, before arriving late). So making a car journey and having to arrive at an exact time seemed almost impossible. However, knowing the pitfalls we made sure everything was in hand before putting Theo in his carseat and making the nervous journey back to the hospital. Somehow we managed to get there a little early and waited nervously to be called.

I have to say that the tongue-tie specialist and her assistant were fantastic people and fully aware of the journey already described to you. They also knew how stressful the week had been and were gentle with us, explaining everything to us and advising of the advantages should we go ahead with it. They also were happy that we would probably be bottle-feeding afterwards whatever the outcome.
So it was with a heavy heart that we agreed for Theo to be examined with the knowledge that if anything was found, they would cut the tie there and then. We signed the consent form and were asked would we want to hold him while they carried out the procedure. As we pictured spurting blood and baby’s tears we let the professionals continue. They were very careful with Theo and immediately recognised the tie and showed us. Seconds later a baby’s cry filled the room and Willy bursts in to tears. The specialist quickly stopped the flow of blood from Theo’s tongue and he is passed to Willy who settles our boy. We are then advised to try him on the breast and this he does successfully before falling asleep. We left the room with a weight lifted from our shoulders, if only for a short while.

The thing was, a dilemma was brought up: do we continue with bottle feeding, or go back to trying breast feeding now he is ‘fixed’? Bear in mind that there was still a lot of bad feeling in the air and stressful associations with breastfeeding. Willy did try later that day with the ‘rugby ball’ hold and did not feel comfortable physically or mentally with it. She had been used to seeing Theo’s face when he was feeding and loved the eye contact that went with it: with breast feeding, Theo’s face was hidden and she could never tell whether he was feeding or was happy.

Due to the additional stress connected with breast feeding, we moved to bottle and are still satisfied with the decision. I have to state here that Willy still wishes she could have breastfed, but the distance from the desire to the physical act, was never going to be met… not without days or weeks more of worry with possible latching problems.

At this point, Theo was still having expressed milk from a bottle. Willy was still spending hours a day hand-pumping into a container and then transferring the milk to a bottle. Luckily I was still on annual leave, so while she expressed, I could get on with the household chores. After a few days of this, it was obvious she could not continue doing it. This brings us to the next big decision in our baby’s short life: do we move to formula milk? To many pro-breasters, feeding a baby formula/powdered milk is like giving them poison, but after hours of soul-searching and weighing up the options, we came to the conclusion that it was good enough for us when we were babies and everyone else is doing it, so how can it be wrong. I am not actually sure this is how we expressed our feelings then, but I know that going to formula was a way of freeing Willy from being chained to that handpump (the squeaking sound it made is still clearly playing in my head, and brings back painful memories).
Some of you reading this will think ‘What’s the big deal?’ others will be shaking their heads as if we have betrayed our baby and given him a poor start in life. I guess in the greater scheme of things it is not a big deal, because after all, our baby is being fed and he is growing by the day. But my wife wanted to be Theo’s provider; she enjoyed the closeness of breast-feeding and wanted to do it more than anything… going to bottle-fed formula felt like she had failed as a woman and mother. I still tell her to this day she did not fail anyone, and the way she coped and still copes with raising Theo fills my chest with the utmost love and pride.

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