I Was Starving My Baby: What to Look For & How to Fix It

It wasn’t until I had my fourth baby that I really knew this was even a thing. And mommas, it not only is a thing, it’s also super common — yet not many moms know about it! How often does a mom give up on nursing because it is still painful weeks later or baby isn’t gaining weight? Often. I hope this saves some nursing relationships and makes for some happier babies…because I was starving one of my babies by not listening to my momma gut and treating it early on.

Yes, starving. I suspected she had a lip tie issue but my midwife and pediatrician both said she looked fine. At first she gained weight well after birth and I wasn’t in pain, so it was easy to dismiss. But, around three months my supply dropped and so did her weight. She was super fussy at the breast, unhappy with the little amount she was getting, and stayed pretty skinny until she started eating solids at seven months old. I’m very small framed so we all assumed she just took after me.

I felt like a failure. I had never had supply issues before nursing my previous three babies.

Since she was “fine” though, I resorted to taking some milk boosting supplements to help us– which worked to keep us going and her happy again. We made it to a year old before I decided enough was enough and took her to be evaluated by a dentist who performed laser revisions. It wasn’t so much for the nursing relationship anymore at that point, but I had kept researching and discovered it could cause other issues in the future too, such as with speech or dental problems. I decided I’d rather correct it now than deal with the extra expense of speech therapy, braces, or the cavities it can cause.

When baby #5 arrived I saw the same red flags and acted on it immediately this time. So far she’s gained the most weight and surpasses my other babies now at two months old compared to what my last was at six months old.

So, what is a tongue or lip tie?

Essentially, it is a piece of skin connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth and/or a top lip to the gum line. A baby can have just a tongue tie, or have both– though they often go together. Many tongue ties can be easy to spot as a baby’s tongue may not stick out well and appears “tied down”— or it can fool you and your pediatrician like my baby’s because their tongue does stick out well, yet has a posterior tie! The key is to be aware of symptoms as well.

There are different degrees of attachment for the lip tie, but dentist also take into consideration the amount of restriction. So, just because you see attachment doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be corrected!

What are the symptoms?

With my baby, I noticed a thick piece of skin attached to their upper lip and gum. This caused a few issues for us:

  • Mouth wouldn’t open wide to get a deep latch

  • Top lip wouldn’t flip up to get a good latch — creating a blister on top lip

  • Clicking sound from extra air coming in — resulting in more spit up

  • Milk spilled out of mouth from not a strong suction

  • Gagged or chocked on milk

  • Baby ate more often and was tired at feeding time from extra work it took

  • Did not gain weight as expected over time

  • Nipples on momma may be sore or blistered from poor latch

  • Drop in milk supply

  • Plugged milk ducts or mastitis

What can you do?

Firstly, become familiar with what they look like and how to check. If you still aren’t sure, there are dentist and lactation consultants who can give you an evaluation (a lactation consultant is always good help if you have questions or struggling, whether baby has a tie or not). And then– don’t stress. It’s really common and easy to correct.

Here’s what we did before and after revision to help create a better latch and happier baby (and momma):

  • When nursing a baby with a lip tie, the lip often won’t flange out well to the correct position. Once baby has a latch, use a clean finger to lift the top lip out to help latch. I needed to do this post-revision too as my baby had to relearn how to latch correctly.

  • Boost your milk supply with natural supplements. My favorite shop is Euphoric Herbals, which has several different organic milk boosting formulas. You can take this quiz to see which one may be best for you. Dairy Diva saved my breastfeeding relationship with my fourth baby to make it a year before revision! I had double the milk in 24 hours. No joke.

  • Body work such as Chiropractic Care and CranioSacral therapy are wonderful to help loosen face muscles as you prepare for revision, as well as healing afterwards (or may help avoid the procedure all together!). You can also do gentle massages at home to help baby.

  • Do the stretches recommended to prevent reattachment and reoccurring issues that you are trying to correct.

Again, don’t stress. If you are pregnant now and preparing for nursing, just keep an eye out once your baby is born should issues arise. If you are noticing issues with your baby now, don’t be afraid to reach out to lactation consultants for help, they want to help you succeed and are a great resource! Dentists who perform this procedure often want you working with a lactation consultant anyway post-procedure should your baby need it.

The procedure itself is very quick and easy– I swear, it’s harder on the momma’s heart than the babies and the results have been worth it for us: happy baby, more milk, and therefore a happier momma.

Leah became a mom at 19 years old and standing short at 4 foot 11, she is now a mother of almost 5 and a birth mother in an open adoption. Not letting age or size stop her, she's conquering her dreams while being surrounded with yogurt smeared walls and mountains of laundry. You can find more from Leah on her blog, The Grace Bond.

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