“Before pregnancy, even though I knew that hopefully one day I would become a mother, I never really thought much about breastfeeding. I assumed it would be simple – the baby is hungry, so breastfeed, right? Little did I know…
“As soon as I gave birth and held my own flesh in my hands, all I wanted to do was breastfeed my baby and reassure him that everything was going to be fine. It meant so much to me that I was able to nourish him, and to offer him something that no other person could. I just loved gazing into his eyes while he fed. Breastfeeding to me meant more than just giving my baby milk; it was about bonding and ‘tasting’ each other.
“At first everything was going smoothly – Faris was growing and all seemed to be fine. But then the game changed.
“Faris started crying a lot, breastfeeding became difficult, and every time I tried to feed him he would wail and hit at me with signs of frustration. I had no idea what was going on and actually thought it could be his way of getting more attention from me.
“I decided to start using the breast pump more in the hope of increasing my supply, in case his problem was that I didn’t have enough milk. However, the most that I was getting from the pump was around 60ml, which was so frustrating and depressing. To make matters worse, I then had repeated episodes of mastitis, a painful infection resulting from a blocked milk duct that can be a sign that breastfeeding isn’t happening efficiently.
“That’s when I decided to see a lactation consultant. She thought our positioning was to blame, and taught me different ways of holding my child. She also said Faris could possibly have tongue tie because he wasn’t nursing properly, but on further examination confirmed he was fine.
“Although we tried the new breastfeeding positions from the lactation consultant, it didn’t seem to make much difference and Faris continued to fuss. Guilt was eating me up and I remember I used to cry every night thinking that I am not doing a good job at fulfilling my son’s most basic need – breastmilk.
“It also seemed like everyone around me was judging me, which made me feel worse. They kept proposing I eat certain foods or drink nursing teas and all this made me feel more incapable and made me lose my confidence, which really added to my postpartum blues.
“After so much pressure, and with Faris continuing to cry all the time, I finally gave in and decided to supplement my breastmilk with formula. But once I‘d started supplementing, my supply kept decreasing and decreasing, until I found myself pumping and not getting even a drop of milk.
“That’s when I decided to stop breastfeeding all together, although I so wished things could have turned out differently. I felt like such a failure. My son would turn to me to try to breastfeed, and I had to give him the bottle instead. It killed me inside.
“Then, when Faris was about two months old, things got even worse. Even with the bottle he was literally fussing at every feed and I knew that I had to do something else about it.
“I took him to a paediatrician here in Dubai (I had delivered in my home country so this was our first official visit to the doctor in Dubai) and begged him for help. The paediatrician examined my son and diagnosed him with a posterior tongue tie, a condition that needs a specialist to identify.
“We discovered my son had been unable to move his tongue in the correct nursing position – he was basically using his jaw instead, which fatigued him and made him fall asleep in the middle of a nursing session”
“We discovered that my son had been unable to move his tongue in the correct nursing position, which is why he wasn’t getting enough to eat. He was basically using his jaw instead of his tongue, which fatigued him and made him fall asleep in the middle of a nursing session after so much fussing.
“The condition meant that my son had to undergo surgery, which was devastating. I was frightened by the thought that he would be in pain again, and also by the fact that we would need a full month of tongue massages and stretches so that the frenulum would grow back the way it was supposed to. But at the same time I felt so relieved that we finally had an answer to what was going on.
“Looking back, I definitely learnt a lot through this harsh experience as a first-time mum. Now Faris is doing well and I also feel much, much better – although I still have the ‘What if I wasn’t trying my best?’ moments. I have learnt to trust my maternal instinct more – when I felt my baby was not okay, I was right.
“I want every mum to know that when you feel something doesn’t seem right, always get a second opinion and never settle for something you are not convinced by. It’s good to be aware of the possibility of tongue tie, since it can be hard to diagnose and it can have such a negative impact on both mother and baby. But also know that whatever challenges come your way will only make you stronger.”