Most of the time, mummying is the best.
It’s the daftest. The most fun. Every day is basically like a trip to Blair Drummond Safari Park. So, it’s important to me that my column reflects that silliness.
But, as most mums and dads know, parenting comes with the not so funny times too. So, this week, a wee pause from the jokes to talk about … tits.
Breastfeeding, I know, is seriously bloody (nipples) tough. So, let’s be clear from the start, however you feed your child - well done. A fed child is the important thing; there is no other mother judgement here.
Why are we tongue-tied about breastfeeding?
We struggled on; from ambivalence I became insanely single-minded about breastfeeding, shutting out sense, my husband and alternatives. Indy meanwhile, just cried. Endlessly.
I’d read about cluster-feeding, so it must be that. Or a growth spurt. Or a developmental leap. Or colic. Or reflux. Or she hated me. It was definitely one of those things. Or all of them. She was my first baby, maybe it was meant to be like this.
We struggled on, three, four weeks she still wasn’t back to her birth weight and I hadn’t slept for much more than a consecutive hour. We were just about coping and I so wanted it to work, I mean, breast is best, right?
I don’t think anyone in the UK will have missed that campaign mantra. So, unlike Jamie Oliver, I don’t believe that any new or expectant mothers should be schooled in the greatness of their own tits.
However, I guess it is worth taking a moment to think about statistics. In Scotland, around 74% of mums give breastfeeding a go when their baby is born. In Glasgow, this drops to 30% by the first Health Visitor appointment up to 10 days after birth and then falls to 17% by the six week check.
Clearly, there are plenty of mums who don’t want to breastfeed, that have conditions that make it impossible, have undergone a breast reduction or cancer, all of these mothers deserve support, not just nursing mums.
However, it looks like a huge number of us do actually want to give breastfeeding a go and despite this effort - and the current help available - something is falling flat.
For us, it turned out that Indy had undiagnosed tongue tie. We got to six weeks and I was hanging on by new mum threads (and cake). My husband urged me to see a voluntary lactation consultant who changed everything.
We call her Saint Kate. She said she believed Indy had a submucosal tongue tie and, as a result, wasn’t getting enough food (having gained a little weight she had dropped from 50th Percentile at birth to below the second); we were spending 18 hours a day feeding, yet my milk had all but disappeared.
Her remedy was to carrying on feeding Indy, as well as pumping 8-10 times a day (twice through the night) to top her up and to try and get an NHS diagnosis.
I spent the next few weeks fighting for a tongue tie appointment through my Health Visitor and GP. I think because it had been missed at the start there was a reluctance to refer me. So, I called the clinic directly; they had a huge waiting list and couldn’t see me for 4 weeks. Perhaps I could justuse formula?
I was hysterical, not because formula is bad but because I had fought so hard I didn’t want to give up. Yet.
From speaking to people, Glasgow seems particularly tongue tied about tongue tie. Firstly, though, what actually is tongue tie?
It’s basically when the fleshy bit under your tongue is too tight. It can cause breastfeeding problems (tongue tie babies usually do okay with bottles) as well as teeth issues and later problems with speech and language.
Plus, as my brother (who also has it) tells me, an inability to eat an ice-cream cone in public.
We were lucky to be able (and afford) to get an appointment at a private clinic in Edinburgh two weeks earlier than in Glasgow. For me, even those two weeks may well have been the difference between me carrying on breastfeeding. The procedure took less that 10 minutes and the change in feeding was immediate.
The doctor said he had seen a lot of families from the other end of the M8 and wondered why?
It seems that when breastfeeding went out of fashion, knowledge about tongue tie was almost forgotten. Some also argue that due to certain supplements in pregnancy the incidence of tongue tie is actually increasing.
I’ve heard that in the past midwives would just have a sharp pinky nail to swipe underneath the baby’s tongue if it was suspected. And, in many parts of the country, newborns are still routinely checked for tongue tie at birth, but for some reason that doesn’t always happen in Glasgow.
It makes me wonder whether it could be a contributing factor to our breastfeeding statistics?
The staff at the Yorkhill Tongue Tie clinic do an incredible job - a special shout out to Debbie - but they are completely over run. They really need more support.
Out of my close group of breastfeeding friends, six out of eight of the babies have had tongue tie. Not all were severe enough to require snipping but it did affect breastfeeding for every single one.
So, I’m writing this because I want to see more awareness of tongue tie and because I’d really like folk to stop sending the unhelpful message that it’s always mums to blame - ‘breast is best ladies blah blah blah’.
I’d also like the Government to consider having more NHS lactation support workers who can - unlike Midwives, GP’s and Health Visitors who have so much on already - really focus on keeping abreast of everything for all new mums.