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The Problem Started When He Couldn’t Latch To Breastfeed

My son Zach was born and placed onto my breast immediately after birth. They were still stitching me up and the midwife helped him to feed. Later that night I couldn’t get him to latch. This was my 3rd baby and I thought it would be easy. He just couldn’t stay latched on. I was worried and frustrated. The nurse came in and gave him a bit of formula in a cup. He was hungry. We figured maybe it was mucus as he was a c section baby and I just kept on trying.

He did latch on and was suckling fine but would often pull off. I couldn’t figure out why. The midwife checked and didn’t see a lip tie or anything that would cause his reactions. Early on I knew something wasn’t right, Zach would appear frustrated that he couldn’t eat. His nose was always congested and he couldn’t stay latched on. At feeding times he would bob his head and flap his arms and whine. We just figured that his germy sister kept getting him sick. He seemed so unsettled on the breast so we started giving him formula in a bottle too. He would gobble it down. He was hungry but for some reason couldn’t breastfeed.

During one specific feed, he squeaked and pulled off my breast. It was almost like he couldn’t breathe. It scared me enough to take him to Sick Children’s Hospital. The doctors there couldn’t see what was wrong because when he wasn’t on the breast he was able to breathe 100 percent. While watching him on the breast he occasionally would gasp nothing that they found concerning. I wanted answers as I wanted to breastfeed but no one had any.

The doctors sent us home with an ENT referral and advised me to buy a specific nasal aspirator. They told us to put saline drops in his nose and suck out the gunk before each feed. It did help clear all the mucus but he still struggled to stay latched and the gasping for air became more regular. His lips and his feet often turned bluish in tone. To me, it indicated low oxygen intake but again I was told by multiple professionals that this sometimes happens with little babies.

Between 6 and 8 months he was fully weaned onto a bottle. On a bottle, he still turned his head for a breath but maybe it was easier and less frustrating for me to feed him that way.
The ENT said he had small nasal passages but they will grow as he grew and he was ok and needed no further follow up. This poor baby was always congested he snored and just sounded like he couldn’t get a deep breath in.

He was red flagged by early intervention services because he didn’t speak or have words by a year and a half. He tossed and turned at night and just appeared restless. I started noticing him taking big breaths of air and gasping in between his loud snores. When I say loud snoring you could hear him downstairs.  I am not a doctor but with a little Google research, it was clear he had developed sleep apnea.

I pushed some more and went to his family doctor and then another ENT and once again they confirmed small nasal passages. He is fine and he is too young to put him through a sleep test or any surgery. It wasn’t until he got really sick with high fever and rapid breathing that my not yet husband took into an emergency clinic. The doctor took one look in his mouth and said “who takes care of this boy? Has he ever seen a medical professional?” Of course, he has he had seen so many. The doctor was shocked he asked “if any doctor has ever told you that he has the largest set of tonsils? They are the biggest I have ever seen in a little boy’s mouth” He also confirmed he had tonsillitis. The doctor sent them on their way for antibiotics. He insisted that we switched to his closed practice so he could follow up. He wanted to be sure that someone took care of our son properly.

Now it clicked everything made sense, my son needed his tonsil and probably adenoids removed. This is why he had all those symptoms. I found out that the doctors were pushing him away because where we live they don’t like to do the surgery until over 2 and some not until till 3 years old. They feel most kids will outgrow the issue. Our new family doctor referred Zach to an ENT who was known to remove them in younger kids.

After one quick visit she confirmed the appointment, his tonsils were coming out and his adenoids were going to be assessed while in surgery. Funny since we had seen maybe 10 doctors including 3 specialists and no one mentioned any concerns. I was very pregnant with baby 4 by this time and was super nervous about putting him under for surgery.
Two months after the baby was born at 2 and a half Zach went for his removal proceedings. We met with the ENT in pre-op. I was so scared and anxious. I said, “please don’t take out his adenoids if they don’t need to come out.” I was so worried for him and the pain I knew he was about to endure. Both myself and my eldest daughter had ours out and the recovery was horrifically painful. I will never forget and I was young at the time. He was rolled out to the operating room.  I pushed the baby stroller and paced the halls waiting for the doctor to call with an update.

Approximately an hour later my phone rang and the doctor said: “it was a success, he did great, I took them both out, and you made the right choice.” I was so relieved. She also said, “If you thought his tonsils were huge you should have seen his adenoids!” She reassured me that we made the right choice for his health.  Right away in the recovery room, I could tell he was a new boy. He was groggy but awake and he could breathe. He was so quiet while he rested. He didn’t sound like a race car zooming around the track. He sounded different immediately. The recovery was brutal but worth it. Popsicles were his best friend.

Within a few months, he began speaking. I learned from the speech pathologist the there is a correlation between large tonsils and adenoids causing delayed speech. His nasal congestion also dissipated shortly after the surgery. He no longer suffered from a permanent stuffiness. At night I kept checking on him for months as he slept. I was so paranoid something was wrong. He was so quiet. Sometimes my anxiety would raise from him being so still and silent that I would touch him to ensure he was still breathing.

I believe in my heart that he couldn’t breastfeed because how large his tonsils and adenoids were. He couldn’t latch and suck at the same time. Sure, maybe the doctors were right, maybe as he grew he would have been ok. I am happy we didn’t wait years and watch him suffer with no guarantee. Thankfully my pushiness came in handy here. I was persistent and followed my mommy instincts.

Zach was my first formula fed child. It was not worth him gasping for air while feeding just to push breastfeeding. I just wish a doctor or lactation consultant could have pointed out the possibility sooner that his tonsils and adenoids may be the issue. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so stressed, frustrated and sad thinking it was something I could fix. I have heard stories now of other moms sharing a similar experience with their child and outcome. It’s obviously not a main symptom but it happens. I remain grateful for his now family doctor who cared and spoke up and put us on the right path.

Did your little one need their tonsils or adenoids removed? Please share what you signs you saw that had you take them to the doctor to find out.




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  1. I am so happy you were able to figure out what was going on. I can’t imagine how fustrsting it was for him and you!

    1. Thank you Angel for taking the time to read and comment.

  2. My little didn’t have this problem, but oh my how infuriating that doctors didn’t flag it sooner! I would called all those dr and give them a very big piece of my mind. I am so glad one doctor was able to help resolve the issue!

    1. Thank you Justine. I am just happy it is over with but hopefully, my experience helps another parent out who is looking for answers.

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