Trust Your Mommy-Gut-Instincts
Updated: Jan 4
Board Certified Pediatric Dentist
God blessed me with the opportunity to be a mom and I am proud of the men they have become. It was not always easy but with love and determination we got through childhood and the teenage years. But that’s not what this story is about so I’ll go back to where it all started. I was very determined to breastfeed my babies. I wanted to bond with them, to be able to provide them with nutrition and immunologic protection. Being a pediatric dentist, I also knew that breastfeeding encourages ideal growth and development of a child’s head, face, and jaws.
The first time around, I didn’t know what I was doing but no manual was needed to breastfeed. It just happened naturally, as it should be. The second time, I knew instinctively that something was different, perhaps something was wrong. My baby was having trouble latching. He literally fought with fists and head every single time I fed him. I had to constantly wake him up because he was exhausted after sucking just for a few seconds at a time. Milk leaking, clenching, detaching… feeding sessions took forever. I was in so much pain; tears would often run down my cheeks. As crazy as this may sound, I don’t remember my labor pain as much as I remember breastfeeding pain. It took a lot of will power to get through those first four months. He didn’t fail to thrive in part because I made it my exclusive job to feed him. Words can’t express how much I appreciate my husband and mom for taking on the rest of the load.
I wish I could end this part of the story reporting a successful resolution but that was not the case. Eventually, breastfeeding was not sustainable, and I gave it up. My son struggled with the bottle too. For a good portion of his first year, my baby was constantly placed on medication to treat his horrible gas and reflux. He could only sleep for a few hours at a time and seemed unhappy after each feeding session. I reached out for help; we tried many things. No one seemed to pinpoint what the problem was, including me.
If I would have known then, what I know now… My son had a very tight upper lip-tie. Back then, there was not enough research to see the negative impact this would have on breastfeeding. I was trained to look at tongue-ties and that didn’t seem to be the problem. Incredible to think that all this trouble was because of a very thick restrictive piece of tissue! As he got older and more rambunctious, he fell on his face, and we had this restriction resolved with a “frenectomy by trauma”.
Lip, cheeks, and tongue ties are a normal part of the mouth anatomy. When too short or not flexible enough, they are called tethered-oral-tissues and may interfere with proper breastfeeding. Symptoms associated with this may include:
Weak latch-detaching easily
Incomplete nursing-long frequent feedings
Fatigue–baby falls asleep
Gas pain, arching back, hiccups
Frequent reflux, spit ups & vomiting
Fighting at the breast
Chewing on the nipple
Poor weight gain
Raw, blistered, bleeding nipples
Babies may struggle with breastfeeding for many reasons which really emphasizes the importance of assessing where the issue lies. If the struggle relates to an inability to extract the milk, positioning or milk letdown, an evaluation by a lactation consultant or an IBCLC may be all you need to reassess. If it’s related to your baby’s body posture, a chiropractor, or a physical therapist with experience in treating babies will provide your baby with proper alignment to improve. Occasionally, the struggle stems from tethered-oral-tissues. A pediatric dentist or an ENT with proper training in evaluating how these restrictions may affect ideal breastfeeding function will be able to determine if a fast & simple laser surgery can help. Some babies who struggle with many of these issues need a team approach to bring them back to optimal health.
I used to look back to these early days and feel guilty for having to give up breastfeeding early. After intense training and many years of treating tethered-oral-tissues, I now realize that my eyes couldn’t see what my brain was not trained to look for. Now that my eyes are open, I have made it my mission to help other families avoid these struggles and see their babies thrive.
Dr. Maribel Santos-Cordero is a board-certified & laser certified pediatric dentist in Lakewood Ranch dedicated to the oral health of children, adolescents, and children with special needs. She believes in helping children achieve their full potential by providing all the necessary tools to guide their growth and development.
You can visit www.sarasotatonguetie.com to learn more about her practice or call 941-907-7762.