Friday, January 7, 2011


Breastfeeding has been painful. Painful enough that I count down the days to visit an otolaryngologist (new word for me, but hey, just another thing that parenting makes you an expert in). Painful enough that I’m now counting down the hours until they cut my daughter’s frenulum, the underside of her tongue – 3 hours to go!

A lactation consultant at the hospital first suggested she might have a short frenulum and another seconded that opinion. They also commented that her suck was like a vacuum extractor. Within days, my nipples were red and covered with scabs.

Those eventually went away and I thought I was toughening up, but the redness remained, as well as a burning sensation that lasted long after nursing. I thought it must be thrush, which we suffered with River, and got treatment for both of us. The doctor didn’t seem convinced though. When I initially told her about the lactation consultants’ concerns, she said, “We’re not going to cut her tongue.” I accepted that and didn’t bring it up again.

But when she expressed some doubt about the thrust, I asked, “Can you think of anything else that would cause my breasts to burn?” and she gave me a referral to an otolaryngologist.

My first thought upon hearing the possibility of cutting her tongue was one of repulsion, an instinct of no way. Then the pain continued, and got worse. I now have a crack half way around a nipple, so large I can see the skin underneath, and part of that is turning white, making me think it could be getting infected. I dread giving her that breast. I offer her the right one three times for each time I reluctantly put her on the left. I can’t keep this up.

I have a good friend who is in to all kinds of natural treatments. Like me, she is disturbed by the thought of circumcising a male baby. Yet she told me her son was diagnosed as tongue-tied at age two months, she didn’t cut his frenulum, and she wishes she had.

She told me that breastfeeding was continually painful for her and that addressing the problem would not only allow me to breastfeed, it would improve our relationship. I think that is true because at the moment, when I put her on the left breast, I’m clamping her head in a vice-like grip, sweating and panting. Not exactly great bonding time. She also said that her son, now three, is lisping, and that cutting it early probably would have prevented that.

Our first visit to an EMT confirmed that her frenulum was “tight” but that practice only does the cutting in a hospital, with intubation and general anesthesia. Pretty freaky for a two-week old.

There are so many more serious issues that many new parents are dealing with. I feel lucky that she is healthy and happy. But still, to be told that a baby this small could use a procedure is stressful. Even more so when the thought of having my own frenulum cut inspires horror and revulsion. The tongue is one of those things you just don’t want to have to cut. Trying to do research, find doctors, make and get to appointments, is extra difficult with a newborn.

After two visits to the hospital-only doctors, I found two other doctors who do it in their offices. We went with one that uses a novocaine shot. Here’s hoping it works!

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