Failure to Thrive: Bella’s Story

bella is born!

My daughter, Isabella Rose, was born via induction at 37 weeks due to my health. She was 7 lbs exactly. I said I wanted to breastfeed from the start, so after a lengthy 5 day labor, we put her to my breast when she was born.

latching issues

She didn’t want to latch—they said it was probably a result of the epidural, and the fact she had received all the fluids I had via the IV. We kept trying in the hospital, and she would sometimes get it and then other times not. The nurses would have me try to latch, supplement donor milk and then pump. I was shown all the techniques and holds. We went home with her weighing 6 lbs 5 oz, and they weren’t concerned.

I diligently worked at her latch, and at 3 days when my milk came in, I thought we had it figured out. She seemed to latch, and I noticed her swallowing, and then she’d fall asleep. I still had milk after she fed, which I thought was great—I’d be able to start making a stash! At her first pediatrician’s appointment she weighed 6 lbs 2 oz. The pediatrician told me that was normal, and that she should start gaining once she got the hang of nursing.

the first three weeks

The next 3 weeks were exhausting for me and my husband. Isabella seemed to cry all the time, and wanted to nurse every hour. Because I saw swallowing motions before she fell asleep, I thought she was just cluster feeding. In order to give me an occasional break, my husband would give her a bottle while I napped. She seemed to struggle with the bottle, with milk leaking constantly out of her mouth. She never seemed satisfied, and I didn’t feel like she was getting plump. I constantly watched her diaper count, which she was meeting, so we kept on as we were. She continued her every hour nursing pattern and struggled to latch; sometimes we would work for 30 minutes to latch, she’d eat for 20-30 min and fall asleep. Then I’d pump and she’d wake up and we’d go again.

failure to thrive

We were getting ready for her 3 week appointment and she just seemed so small and extra wrinkly, but I didn’t know it wasn’t normal—this was my first baby. At the pediatrician’s office, they weighed her, and she was 5 lbs 7 oz. She had lost 22% of her birth weight. I instantly started crying as the doctor told me that from now on after every feeding to offer her an ounce of formula and she wanted to see her the next day for a weight check along with some of my milk because either my milk was the issue or she had some kind of absorption problem.

3 weeks old failure to thrive

3 weeks old failure to thrive

help from a lactation consultant

I was in tears as I called a lactation consultant recommended to me on Facebook. She told me to offer my pumped milk and she’d be over in the morning before the appointment. I also went and bought a baby scale. I did what she advised, and the next morning she watched her feed and checked her mouth. While she couldn’t officially diagnose it, she suggested Bella had ties and that her sucks were super weak and she wasn’t transferring anything from me. She said any longer and Bella might have lost the will to suck—she was falling asleep due to exhaustion, not being full. Overnight, she gained almost 7 ounces. The lactation consultant told me it wasn’t my milk—it had to be her ties. Bella actually would move her restricted tongue in a backwards motion to get just enough milk to stay hydrated. She told me when I would give her a bottle I needed to make sure it went over her tongue so she could swallow.

She recommended a pediatric dentist and suggested we go as soon as we could, and to keep feeding her 1-2 oz after nursing and to keep pumping. We went to the pediatrician, who was very happy with Bella’s weight gain. She wasn’t very educated about ties, but was glad we’d found a solution. Bella started sleeping more as she was eating; my poor baby was starving to death and I didn’t know. I felt horrible.

lip- and tongue-tie revision

I called Dr. Preetha Thomas’s office at Enclave Dental, and due to the severity of her weight loss they got her in a week later. She diagnosed her with a class two lip tie and a class three tongue tie, then looked in my mouth and saw mine too. She told me they are hereditary.

We had the laser revision done that day and she latched and ate perfectly in the office. I did her stretches religiously and fed her as much as she wanted. I continued to supplement after, and she gained almost 2 lbs in 2 weeks!

2 weeks post tongue tie revision

2 weeks post tongue tie revision

healthy and happy

Bella won’t ever be a chunky baby, but now she is healthy, on the curve and is no longer Failure to Thrive at 5 months. She doesn’t leak milk out of her mouth when she drinks from a bottle, no longer clicks or spits up and she’s gaining well! I’m so thankful to our lactation consultant and our pediatric dentist; they saved Bella’s life.

Thriving at 5 months

Thriving at 5 months

Melanie Henstrom