Sleep Issues And An Overlooked Cause
I have a hunch as to what may be going on with Eli a.k.a Beaner. He has never been a “good sleeper”, and for the last few months he has been waking up every hour on the hour, screaming and only wanting to come to mama. It may be something we should have pursued months ago and for that I am frustrated at myself for not advocating for him harder.
I am convinced he has a mild posterior tongue tie. In hindsight; in spite of several visits with a lactation consultant, a few pediatricians, checking with my peers, referring to the online community and many books, I was told that my breastfeeding “technique” (as far as how he was being held and his latch) was fine. However, in the beginning the pain from nursing was worse than my c-section recovery and eventually I was taking pain relief for my sore nipples not my abdominal pain.
His painful latch caused trauma to my nipples (and emotions as I dreaded when he cried to nurse) and led my ob to believe that I had thrust. In spite of no physical signs on Eli or myself we still treated me with a very strong dose of antibiotics. It did not help the pain even after being on it (and a doctor prescribed pain relief regime) for two weeks. I tried alternative methods, creams etc. and eventually just got used to the pain.
The problem with getting used to “pain” while breastfeeding is that pain inhibits the release of the oxytocin hormone which is mother nature’s gift to a nursing mom (sleep and relaxation inducing). So I was nursing a baby through pain, without rest and totally tense and trying not to be resentful.
The long extended and painful nursing sessions were a first for me as I did not experience them with my other two babies. I was use to feeding my babies and watching them peacefully drift off into a deep sleep, “milk-drunk” we called it.
Eli never peacefully drifted off as I had and still have to pry him off of the breast. If he doses off during nursing it is short-lived, fifteen-twenty minutes tops. He still does not sleep longer than that during the day and at night (since he has been on solids) he will sleep for an hour and wake to nurse…every..hour…until…morning.
On a good night he may sleep for 3-4 hours but after that he is attached until morning to make up for sleeping so “long”. Normally having a nursing baby attached while I slept wasn’t an issue. I did it for my other babies and I often would sleep right through their feedings with the only signs that they nursed being a lack of engorgement and a happy baby in the morning.
With Eli, I always know when he is nursing and I have never been able to sleep through it. My toes are curled up, body is tense and I can’t wait to unlatch him, add the fact that I haven’t benefited from the beloved sleep inducing oxytocin and you have a very exhausted, zombie like mother. For the most part he does not wake up a happy baby, he is always instantly upset the second he wakes and only nursing calms him down.
As far as his weight gain it was always on the bottom percentile suggesting that the nursing possibly wasn’t sufficient for this little guy in spite of the every hour on the hour, 30-45 minute nursing sessions (this seriously lasted to about 7 months with the length, shortening to about 15 minutes and stretching to 2 hours in between, sometimes).
So I began eating different foods, taking herbs and supplements, and drinking different teas to try to increase my milk production (which I never had a problem with before). By the way, do you know what is the best way to increase supply? Sleep….sleep helps increase milk supply, which I have not been getting a lot of.
Obviously my efforts did work as he began plumping up and rose from the 10% to 95%. This was before solids were introduced. My pediatrician was so surprised that she asked me what I was doing differently for him to be growing so fast.
I’d brought him in and called our clinic’s nurse-line on several occasions only to be told that “he must be hungry” or “sounds like a bad habit, you need to sleep train”.
Breastfed babies tend to wake up a few times a night but his unusual sleeping behavior has been going on for months and mama is getting burned out. I don’t expect him to sleep 10 hours, or even 8 hours (although it’d be nice). I am not a CIO fan and wouldn’t be comfortable doing that with my kids. We do have him on a bedtime ritual that gets thrown off by teething, a cold or a long day.
When he was an infant I asked about the possibility of a tongue tie and his doctor did a finger swipe and said she didn’t think so. Hmm. That’s funny because I thought that may explain a lot and could give us some answers. I didn’t push the issue and tried other suggestions. After doing some research on the issue I’ve learned that there is more than one tongue tie and that mild ones are often overlooked.
My mother’s instinct tells me that; he has a mild posterior tongue tie and a lip tie that did not get diagnosed and treated. Because of that he has never been able to fully “drain” or get a full meal out of my breast. Because he had to work so hard to nurse he would go to sleep from the efforts. He will then wake up after a very short nap only to resume his nursing session…because he never got full. In hind-sight, I don’t believe it was a supply issue, although I was happy to do whatever to help him. I believe the nursing tea helped because it caused me to become fuller and he didn’t have to try so hard to get milk, it just flowed out.
I also believe (in spite of the tongue and lip tie) that the only reason he is thriving (from nursing), the reason we are still nursing this far and why I didn’t have to supplement with formula is because I am home with him full-time and was able to dedicate the time and effort, e.g letting him nurse every hour during the day and all night long. It still didn’t make the situation easy, but I didn’t feel the pressure from my husband or the demand of an outside job to end the nursing relationship abruptly. I know that in our culture this is rare and not always an option for every mom, so I do count my blessings.
Could the night behavior be a habit now and not a necessity? Maybe, maybe not. I tell you this, I recently cut back on the nursing tea because I needed a break and he has increased his nursing and the waking up at night.
Could this be the reason why he won’t let my husband comfort him only at night (he doesn’t have the food)? Could be the reason why he couldn’t hold on to a pacifier as they always fell out (we tried 5 different brands and textures).
We are headed out to an appointment with his pediatrician and this time everything needs to be carefully considered. If we rule out any other physical causes for the night wakings and screaming I really think this is it
What do you think? Have you experienced tongue tie with your child and how did it affect your nursing? Also, did you decide to have it clipped? Did that help?
- How We Decided to Co-Sleep (Yup, We’re One Of Those) (memoirsofamodernhousewife.wordpress.com)