Jordan Talley is a 25-year-old photographer and mother of two from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Last month she gave birth to her youngest daughter, Lucy Eleanor.
Talley and her husband welcomed their second baby girl into the world April 9.
"When I hit 38 weeks, my blood pressure got a little high so the doctors induced me...but the labor was easy and Lucy was born 6 pounds, 8 ounces and perfectly healthy, there were no concerns," Talley told BuzzFeed News. She first shared her story on Love What Matters.
Lucy started breastfeeding right away. "She was able to nurse as soon as they put her on my chest after birth, and she nursed for like an hour straight — or at least, it looked like she was nursing because her head and jaw were moving," Talley said.
A few days later, Talley noticed that breastfeeding was more painful — especially when Lucy latched onto her mother's nipple. "The lactation consultant at the hospital was really sweet and she showed me some ways to get a different latch — that helped a little bit," Talley said.
But the pain continued after the family returned home from the hospital with the baby. "I thought I was just being a wimp and it would go away...but it didn't," Talley said.
In the weeks after she was born, Lucy nursed "all the time" — but she still wasn't putting on much weight. Talley, and her doctors, didn't know why.
"Lucy was nursing really frequently, sometimes she would wake up hungry every thirty minutes at night" Talley said. It didn't concern Talley because she assumed Lucy was "cluster feeding," which is when a newborn wants to feed several times in a short period. Breastfeeding was still painful, but Talley didn't stop trying.
At Lucy's one- and two-week checkups, the pediatrician noticed she hadn't caught up to her birthweight, Talley said. It's normal for newborns to lose weight right after birth and then regain it or "catch up" in the next week. Doctors told Talley that if Lucy hadn't surpassed her birthweight after one month, she would need formula.
"We kept trying to breastfeed because there are so many health benefits and I wasn't able to with my first child so that's something we really wanted to do," she said. Lucy still appeared to be nursing all the time and even gained a little weight after two weeks, Talley said.
At one month old, Lucy was still under her birthweight and her appearance had started to change. Her once chubby cheeks were more hollow, and her eyes sunken.
The day of Lucy's one-month checkup, Talley took a photo of her daughter. "I didn’t really notice how scrawny she had gotten until I put the pictures side-by-side. When she was born, she had chubby cheeks and after a month they were sunken and her eyes looked all hollow," Talley said.
At the checkup, doctors found that Lucy only weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. "At that point, she had fallen into the 0.6 percentile for weight," Talley said. Doctors didn't know why Lucy couldn't gain weight, Talley said, and she was healthy otherwise. "We just thought she was slow to catch up and she did put on some weight so we knew she wasn't starving," Talley said.
Doctors advised Talley to start giving Lucy formula to help her gain weight. "I thought it was a problem with me, that my supply was too low or there wasn't enough calories in my breastmilk," Talley said.
Finally, Talley met with a lactation consultant who noticed Lucy had both a tongue- and lip-tie, conditions that restrict movement and interfere with breastfeeding.
Lactation consultants are health care professionals who specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding. Talley decided to meet with one after seeking advice from a friend. "She gave Lucy a bottle of donor breastmilk and watched her eat, and that's when she noticed the tongue-tie and lip-tie — which the doctors said she didn't have," Talley said.
Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where a thick band of tissue (called the lingual frenulum) connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, restricting its movement. A lip-tie is a condition in which the tissue connects the upper lip to the mouth.
"She wasn't able to lift her tongue up to the roof of her mouth which she needs to do to nurse effectively," Talley said. The whole time she was nursing, Lucy had been exhausting herself trying to get milk, but never actually getting enough to gain weight. That's why she nursed so frequently.
After minor medical procedures, Talley noticed an immediate difference with breastfeeding. Lucy put on two pounds in 12 days and is back to looking healthy again.
Talley said she shared her story to raise awareness about the condition and encourage mothers to seek help from a lactation consultant instead of giving up on breastfeeding.
"My goal was just to spread awareness because [tongue-tie and lip-tie] are very common conditions but they are often overlooked because some pediatricians are not trained to look for them," Talley said.
"Everyone told me breastfeeding isn't painful so I thought I was a wimp when it hurt...and I thought it was a problem with my body or breastmilk," Talley said.