Breastfeeding isn’t always easy — in fact for many, it can be an emotionally (and even physically) painful struggle. And now, a viral Facebook post is proving that fact once more, thanks to the message of awareness it’s spreading.
The post, which has since been shared hundreds of times, was written on April 17 by Jennifer Jones, an American mom of two living in Tokyo while her husband is stationed in the military. In it, Jones documents the struggle, sadness, and physical pain she encountered while trying to breastfeed her newborn daughter without success. In the end, she had to take her baby all the way from Tokyo to Portland to get the help she needed. And it came an agonizing 172 days after she first sought help.
As she explains in the post, Jones’s issues with “dysfunctional breastfeeding” were the result of her daughter Avery’s tongue and lip ties — a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion — but she wasn’t properly diagnosed.
According the La Leche League:
“Breastfeeding difficulties caused by tongue-tie are usually proportional to the tightness of the frenulum, the shortness of the free tongue, and the flexibility of the floor of the mouth. Even with a complete tongue-tie where the frenulum attaches to the tongue tip, the baby might be able to breastfeed without treatment if the floor of the mouth is flexible and can be pulled up to allow more tongue movement, but the compensations involved are fatiguing and make feeding less efficient.”
Over an exhausting five-and-a-half-months, Jones certainly experienced all of those struggles, and then some. And it wasn’t the first time she’d faced them, either. Her first child — a son, now aged 7 — never latched (she’s now convinced he also had ties), which forced her to exclusively pump and bottle feed him. But this second time around, Jones refused to give up trying to nurse her daughter, even though she says her health care providers weren’t supportive of her efforts.
But Jones has a theory on that one.
“Most of the problems we’ve encountered stem from lack of provider education,” she wrote in her post, before documenting a grueling list of the many unhelpful (and often harmful) pieces of nursing advice she was given from the time her daughter was born.
“Within the past five and a half months, I’ve been told: she’ll outgrow it and things will get better. She has a small mouth. I’m not spacing her feeds out long enough. I’m allowed her to use me as a pacifier. I hold her too much/coddle her… things will get better at day 2, week 2, week 6, month 2, month 3 and then month 4. She’s 5 months, just start her on solids. She is gaining weight just fine. Pump more. Bottle feed. Allow her to skip a meal and she’ll figure it out. Give her a pacifier. Use a Haberman nipple bottle so she can gum on that instead of the breast. Give her rice cereal. If 100 kids were lined up, 50 of them would have a lip tie and hers isn’t that severe to be causing a breastfeeding issue. Why are you still breastfeeding? You know you can stop breastfeeding, right?”
The endless list of advice — which seemed to brush off the issue of Avery’s ties — went on and on. But even in the midst of all the anguish and the lack of help, Jones says she was determined to find a cure. Through her own research, she found a Facebook group that mentioned Dr. Ghaheri, a Portland-based ENT devoted to breastfeeding medicine. After the doctor agreed to fit her into his schedule, Jones got on a plane to Portland with her baby. Once there, Avery was closely examined before the doctor clipped her ties and she nursed herself to sleep, comfortably and easily.
Though many people who heard her story didn’t fully understand why this was so important to her, Jones says that going the distance was totally worth it. “Less than 48 hours-post release she made maintained meaningful eye contact for the very first time while breastfeeding,” she wrote. “I waited 172 days for that moment and my heart exploded. I’m not a new mom, but in that moment there was a rebirth — now I get to enjoy being a mom.”
While Jones is hopeful for a wonderful nursing relationship with her daughter moving forward, she’s also adamant that the support she received through her military doctors was insufficient, and says that she hopes her story can be a tipping point for improving doctor education — specifically for military doctors whom she claims dismissed her daughter’s condition altogether. “I hope this changes the way the military health system responds to ties, and (they) will hopefully educate their providers,” she wrote.
While Jones says she never expected her post to go viral, it’s racking up a ton of response from moms across Facebook — many of whom also claim that doctors just aren’t trained extensively in these kinds of breastfeeding issues. (An argument that’s not exactly new.)
“Just use formula” shouldn’t be any doctor’s knee-jerk reaction to a mother who desperately wants to nurse her baby and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that work. Because while it’s wonderful that we have formula when breastfeeding either doesn’t work out, isn’t an option, or isn’t a mother’s personal choice, it’s also crucial that we have the proper support when a mother does want to breastfeed, and is fighting with all her might to be able to do it.
Here’s hoping more mothers like Jones don’t have to get on a plane to make that a reality.