Tongue tie and allergies are relatively common in babies, affecting up to 10% of all infants. Interestingly, these conditions share some of the same symptoms, making diagnosis tricky. For instance, both tongue-tied babies and allergic babies tend to pull off the breast frequently, exhibit poor weight gain, are poor sleepers, often have green stools, and are more likely to suffer from colic and reflux. In fact, some academics maintain that untreated tongue tie can actually cause allergies because of digestive disruption.
When the mother in the following story suspected tongue-tie, health professionals dismissed her concerns. Her baby then went on to develop Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy and Egg Allergy. Read how she maintained her breastfeeding relationship (and her sanity) throughout the drama.
“I didn’t breastfeed my first son. I’ll save the sob-story and give you the condensed version: traumatic birth, breast refusal, inconsistent advice, negative comments, no help from health care professionals, PND, and PTSD.
Baby #2 I researched till my head was ready to explode. I attended antenatal breastfeeding groups, hired a doula, joined LLL, planned a homebirth, and I made it explicit in my birth plan that I wanted to breastfeed and wanted help.
Why I hired a doula
Throughout my pregnancy, my doula accompanied me to breastfeeding groups; she went through the mechanics of breastfeeding; listened to me talk through my fears; found answers to potential problems and lists of all the breastfeeding groups. I wanted a doula because I had such a negative birth experience first time. I wanted someone to fight my corner if it was needed as during my first labour, I was persuaded to do a lot I wasn’t happy with. And my decision to hire a doula paid off…
This time, the birth was amazing. I felt calm and relaxed because I knew my doula was there to make sure my birth plan was followed. My son was born at home in water after a stop/start labour which was really calm followed by an intense 2 hour active labour. I pushed my son out in just 3 pushes. The midwife didn’t even realise and just had time to get her gloves on and catch, no time to call the second midwife lol. After this beautiful calm birth, I had over an hour of uninterrupted skin to skin cuddles during which my baby latched on within an hour.
[Cue the sound of a vinyl record being scratched]. On day 3 my milk came in with vengeance and I was struggling with the engorgement. My doula took me to a breastfeeding group and, together with a peer supporter, helped me to try different positions. Due to my small flat nipples and engorgement, my son couldn’t latch. We tried everything. In the end, I went home with a plan to express to feed him and to keep trying to latch him. My doula fetched me drinks and held hot flannels on my breasts while I pumped. She was at the end of the phone whenever I needed her, a text away when I needed picking up, and is now one of my best friends.
Later that day, I asked the community midwife to check my son for tongue tie. I was worried that his inability to latch may be due to that; but the midwife was adamant he didn’t have tongue tie. So we struggled on.
Meanwhile, my baby was displaying an array of unusual symptoms. Initially, no one was concerned so I dismissed them: green poos as teething, poor sleep and screaming as just his personality, eczema and vomiting as just one of those things, mucusy, sneezing and coughing as a cold; but then I posted his symptoms on a Facebook group and other mums with experience of intolerances felt it sounded like Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. I excluded all dairy from my diet and within 2 days saw a massive improvement. I spoke to my doctor who agreed it sounded like CMPA.
Then my baby caught a virus but it seemed to linger; from research I learned soya or egg would be the most likely culprit. First I excluded soya but there was no change. So I reintroduced soya and then excluded egg. I again spoke to my doctor and she felt it was the best course of action.
Tongue tie: finally a diagnosis!
A week later, I spotted my son’s upper tongue tie and knew I had been right all along. I was referred to the Infant Feeding Consultant as an urgent because I refused to give him a bottle and was in agony. They agreed to cut the tie 6 days later. Within a couple of weeks my son was completely symptom free.
Excluding items from my diet was very hard initially. I missed glasses of milk and cups of tea and cream cakes and chocolate. I became an excellent brownie baker but could no longer cook them when I excluded egg. It was hard but I nonetheless feel so much better for not having dairy: I was more energetic, less sluggish and I lost over 3 stone (42lbs)! I miss my brownies and poached eggs and mayonnaise and I will be reintroducing eggs when my son weans from the breast. We’ve had some allergy results back and they show a possible wheat allergy, he’ll also be having a skin prick test done.
Now I love every second of feeding my son. It’s been hard with both boys for very different reasons but if I hadn’t had the experience I did with my first I may not have been so determined with my second. I’m proud that he’s never had a drop of formula and so grateful to my doula and to all my amazing friends who live in the internet who built me up when I needed it. I’m now a peer supporter and hope to be able to help many more mums feed their babies.”
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