… who needs suck training

After too many google searches for “baby thrashes and pulls off nipple” “baby fusses during feeds” “baby refuses to feed after burping” etc. I have finally contacted a local breastfeeding consultant. One of the main reasons being that it is impossible to work out what the matter is as so many of the behaviours overlap for almost every problem. Have I got an over supply of milk, or under supply, an over active let down, does baby have reflux, an uncoordinated suck, poor latch, a growth spurt, cows milk protein allergy, tongue tie, ear infection…. the list is endless!!! And totally impossible to dicypher. I definitely need help!

I will report back on what happens when (and if) I see her, but as the only highly experienced volunteer consultant in the area, she is also the busiest. Not too busy to take my call though and advised me to go to a local breastfeeding support group tomorrow until she can get round to seeing me. I have been to said group before when my older daughter was a baby and I hated it, so I might just skip that one. I am all for breastfeeding (or not) and think shared information and support groups are great, and I am pretty unfazed by most things but this group was scary. Half filled with terrified new mums and the other half right-on breastfeeding aficionados aggressively feeding enormous toddlers whilst striding about drinking tea and scowling. I totally think women should breastfeed as long as they like, but when the kids’ feet are almost touching the floor, that’s just showing off.

I think I better not go.

Anyway, after I spoke to the amazing lactation consultant, my oldest bestest friend rang for a catch up. We have babies only a week apart (they were due only a day apart which is amazing and weird). Her baby is a champion feeder or at least was until recently when has become really distracted. It is such a relief to be able to compare notes with someone you know and trust and is in the same boat as you. So from our conversation I managed to entangle which frustrating things my baby was doing that were just because of her age – the annoying yet charming ‘I’m grinning at you mummy instead of eating’ move, the hilarious ‘suck and fart’ and my favourite ‘I’m craning my neck to see what’s over there… with your now stretched nipple still in my mouth’ one. Ouch. And which things were because of her reflux/unidentifiable problem, purely because my baby cries at certain times and hers doesn’t. Good science peoples.

So I decided to pay extra close attention during the next few feeds to the things that don’t seem development stage related. The other thing I did (and I don’t even know what made me think of it) was to let her suck on my little finger to see how she was doing it. And there I had a revelation. She was bunching her tongue up and pushing my finger right to the front of her mouth and just sucking on the very tip. I kinda knew she did this already as my nipples get really compressed and when she was tiny she would fall asleep before satisfied from having to work so hard to get milk out. Ok so maybe I am a total thicko for not checking before, but I had been focussing on the reflux and what all the health professionals were telling me and getting confused by the normal fussiness she was exhibiting. So I googled ‘suck training an older baby’. I may have googled a whole host of things to get to this perfectly crafted search, but you know how it is. And what I found is thus…

Babies born before 39 weeks often have disorganised sucks or tongue problems. Plus there are some very straightforward exercises to help them learn to suck better. Why did no one tell me before?? Every single time I casually remarked to a health professional (and this is countless and includes every midwife, health visitor, doctor, osteopath that I have encountered over the last 4 months) that my baby didn’t open her mouth very wide to latch and if I missed the first and only time she opened her mouth at the start of each feed I would have to let her suck my nipple in like spaghetti, why did they all just joke with me about her being ‘lazy’ or a ‘pickle’ (she is a pickle)? I can only conclude that they didn’t know either. But they should. I reckon showing mothers in hospital a few extra techniques for helping babies to suck rather than just latching and positioning could be a massive game changer. I bet it would reduce the number of mothers who seek further appointments with GPs and Health Visitors. If we have no way of telling what is making our babies fuss at the breast (or bottle), wouldn’t helping babies (who lets face it, are pretty clueless) suck better make a whole heap of sense? I think it would.

I will get back to you on how goes the suck training, and what the breastfeeding consultant says, I am first to admit that I could be completely wrong about all this. But it feels right, and one day when I am getting enough sleep and not up to my ears in nappies and vomit, I may start a campaign.

In the meantime, if your baby is fussy and you are googling latch techniques and positions etc. Why not try googling suck training too.


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