There's no question breastfeeding has its challenges. From the shape of mom's nipples to the neck rotation of the baby, it all has an impact. But I never knew what would kill our breastfeeding relationship would go undetected for so long, although it was right under my nose. Or rather my baby's nose.
I had heard of tongue and lip ties before having a child. I thought I knew what I was looking for and I was under the impression his tongue and lip were perfectly fine -- which meant I kept telling myself I wasn't trying hard enough. I mean, surely the nurses and doctors in the hospital would have told us if there was a problem!
Fast forward to six months old. My son had lost his latch completely and I was exclusively pumping. I was in bed playing with my son one Sunday morning and I looked in his mouth and noticed his upper lip looked really attached to his upper gums. I took a quick picture and asked my local moms' group if it looked like a lip tie. I was met with an overwhelming "yes." The next day I was in my doctor's office and he was sending me off for a second opinion from a specialist who does the procedure to cut lip and tongue ties.
Within seconds of the specialist looking in my son's mouth, she declared he had an upper lip tie, tongue tie (which was news to us), and a high palate. She turned to me and said, "Congrats on breastfeeding as long as you did! He's got the trifecta! Your nipples must have been a mess!"
In that moment a wave of relief flooded over me. You mean I wasn't doing it wrong? You mean the nurses in the hospital that told me if it hurt I was doing it wrong were...wrong? To be told it was something out of my control was a complete relief. She then asked us if we wanted to get them cut. At this point with his latch completely gone, cutting likely wouldn't help us re-establish a breastfeeding relationship. But my research told me having the tongue tie cut could help him with eating and moving food around his mouth and having the upper lip tie cut could help his teeth come in without a space between his two front teeth.
The procedure was very quick and easy. She warned me it would be hardest on me to see my little baby scream and have blood in his mouth. And she was right! It was pretty hard for me to watch but it was over so quickly.
Whenever I see or hear a mom asking about latch issues or complaining of painful nipples in moms' groups, I share my story. A second opinion from a doctor or lactation consultant who knows what they are looking for can help with that breastfeeding relationship before the latch is gone completely. With our next baby I'll be on the look out for tongue and lip ties and will likely have the baby seen by someone who knows what they are looking for within the first week.
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