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Back to the Basics

Carissa Dollar
Indianapolis IN USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 5, September-October 2004, p. 172

Our third child was the best surprise I ever received. We hadn't decided if our family was complete yet, but the two lines on my pregnancy test confirmed that we still had a little growing to do. When Ruby was born, I was confident that nursing her would be easy. After all, she was my third child and both her older siblings had nursed until they weaned themselves. It turned out that I was in for another surprise.

Ruby was born in a birthing tub in our kitchen on February 8, 2003. She latched on right there in the water just minutes after birth and nursed like a champ while her cord was still attached and pulsating. When our midwife returned three days later for our home visit, she had even regained her birth weight. I was convinced that nursing was going to be a snap for us.

My surprise came when, at around two weeks postpartum, I was still experiencing some discomfort while nursing. Based on my past experiences, my initial nipple tenderness was usually over by this point. Instead, I was still very tender and sore, especially on my left side. It was soon after this that I realized that Ruby had a mild tongue-tie, which no one had noticed. She had the classic heart-shaped tongue and it barely extended to her gum-line. At her one-month well-baby checkup, our family doctor confirmed my suspicions. He agreed with me that it seemed rather mild and that her weight gain had been very good. Since I am a fan of taking the approach that requires the least intervention, we decided to see if I could work with her to stretch her frenulum instead of immediately resorting to clipping it.

I found that latching on worked best for us when I held her in either the cross-cradle or football hold. This allowed me to have good control of her head and to compress my breast with the other hand, making a "nipple sandwich" for her, so that she could get plenty of breast tissue in her mouth. I would also pull down firmly on her chin with my fingers to help her to open wide. This approach seemed to encourage her to extend her tongue farther. I was careful to be patient each time she breastfed so that she could get the best latch-on possible. If her tongue movement didn't feel right to me, I would take her off the breast and try again.

With time and patience, things gradually got better. Ruby's frenulum stretched on its own and we were able to breastfeed without any discomfort by the time she was around two months old. Eventually, she learned to stick her tongue out and blow raspberries at us, so we knew the tongue-tie was definitely no longer an issue.

Today she is a very adventurous sixteen-month-old nursing toddler. I no longer have to patiently guide her through latching on. She's a seasoned pro who can and will breastfeed anywhere and in any position that she can twist her little body into. I wanted to share my story of how we overcame our early hurdles by going back to breastfeeding basics. Sometimes a little time and patience will do the trick.

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