In 2001, I was a first-time parent finding out just how difficult and stressful it can be to do something as seemingly simple as feeding a hungry baby. Having done all the research, I understood that breastfeeding would give my daughter the best start possible, yet none of the books I had read, nor the classes I had taken, prepared me for the reality of trying to get my baby to latch and feed successfully.
I had a wonderful midwife who supported me through a difficult and long labor, and delivered a healthy 8 lb. 3 oz. baby girl in a water birth. The labor and delivery had exhausted me, but I was so thankful to hold my sweet daughter in my arms. Unfortunately, nursing was extremely painful from the very first latch, and it only took about 24 hours before my nipples looked more like hamburger than anything else.
So we called another lactation specialist, and she said that the problem was my nipples – and gave me a nipple shield to use. My baby would still nurse for an hour, but at least with the nipple shield, I wasn’t in excruciating pain and my nipples had a chance to heal. After a few more visits with this person, she told me she didn’t know why my baby couldn’t nurse well, and maybe I should see someone else.
We then saw two Lactation Consultants (IBCLC’s) that referred us to an ENT to look for breathing problems, and a Speech Language Pathologist for low muscle tone. I felt vindicated, these were possible answers – and something we could work on. But the ENT said that everything was fine with the baby and didn’t see any problems. The SLP said the baby had low muscle tone, gave us exercises and had us come back weekly to see her. We continued to work with the IBCLC’s and SLP until my daughter was about 12 weeks old. They had us try exercises, feeding with a Supplemental Nursing System, renting a scale and renting a hospital-grade breast pump.
We continued to triple feed at most feedings until it was nearing the time that I had to return to work (12 weeks). At that point, my daughter could nurse for an hour, with an SNS, and still could only transfer about 1 oz. Every feeding at the breast was followed with a supplemental bottle, and I felt like I couldn’t leave the house with the baby. It was at this point that I decided to just exclusively pump for my baby. Unfortunately, I had low supply and was only producing about 8 oz of breastmilk every day. I decided to focus on pumping and figuring out what things might be affecting my supply. After about a month, I got my supply up to where I was producing more than enough for my baby to have just breastmilk. I was so happy to stop giving her formula, but it took 5 months to get there. She had one month of exclusive breastmilk before we started solids.
I continued to pump for her until she was 18 months old, and at that point, had enough frozen milk that she continued to have breastmilk until she was 2.
I now know that my daughter had an undiagnosed posterior tongue-tie. It was finally revised in 2016, because it was causing her to have sleep apnea, mouth breathing and orthodontic issues. It is likely that her tongue-tie caused her difficulty with nursing, her reflux and colic, and her difficulty sleeping as a toddler.
My experience with my daughter is what brought me to the Lactation field, and my second child benefited from my newfound knowledge. With my son, I did not have any difficulty latching him, and he transferred milk beautifully. I had oversupply with my son, which compensated for his tongue-tie, so he gained well.
When I got pregnant with my third child, I was still nursing my second child. I nursed throughout the pregnancy, and began tandem nursing once my last son was born. He was born with a classic tongue-tie, but again my oversupply compensated for his restriction. We chose to have his tie revised when it became evident that it was causing a speech delay at about 10 months of age.
My breastfeeding journey was initially long and difficult with my daughter, but joyous with my sons. I feel blessed to have found my calling in helping other mothers navigate the sometimes difficult waters of their breastfeeding journey.
"My Little Juel -- Annah"
Bayou City Breastfeeding
The midwife had a lactation specialist who tried to help with positioning, but no matter what I did, latch was still extremely painful. I felt lucky that my baby was a “good baby” who wanted to sleep all the time and didn’t feed frequently --- latch was so painful, that I dreaded her feedings. Unfortunately, I didn’t know back then that it was not a good sign. When we went to see the pediatrician for the first time when she was 5 days old, we found that she had lost more than 10% of her birth weight and the pediatrician informed me that I was “starving my baby,” and just needed to give her formula -- I was devastated and felt like a horrible mother. She was sleepy and didn’t feed well because she wasn’t transferring well at the breast. We started supplementing with formula that night (by syringe as suggested by the midwife) and I started pumping. I soon found that I had very low supply, producing less than 10 ml of breast milk in 30 minutes of pumping -- a direct result of her not feeding well.
We called a “lactation specialist” to see us as soon as possible, and at her direction, I began a regime of nurse/pump/supplement at every feeding. Once my daughter started getting some food, she wanted to feed all the time! She would nurse for an hour or more, then I would pump for 30 minutes while my husband gave her bottle. After her bottle, she would projectile vomit what seemed like the whole feeding. It seemed like I would just finish pumping and she would want to feed again. When she wasn’t at the breast, she was fussy, and when she was, she seemed to just fall asleep. The lactation specialist told me that my baby was “lazy,” and that was why she didn’t feed well, and that I just needed to have her at the breast more often, wake her up and make her mad. We tried this for a few days, but quickly found that it was not sustainable. We saw our pediatrician at two weeks and she said that some babies and mothers just can’t breastfeed and that I should just give up and give the baby formula. I was disheartened, but also angry at the lack of support. Surely there was a “reason” my baby didn’t nurse well, I just wasn’t seeing the person who could figure it out.
The Juel Family - 2009