After just three days, it was painfully clear that breastfeeding wasn't working for Karen Poskozim or her newborn son. For mom, it hurt. For the underweight Grant, it was more than frustrating. Not getting enough to eat threatened his very means to thrive.
This was the opposite of the way Poskozim learned it should be in the brightly colored picture book proclaiming "Breastfeeding Should be Fun and Enjoyable" she saw in the Highland Park office of pediatric and laser dentistry specialist Dr. Fred Margolis, who wrote the book.
That's where she learned Grant was tongue-tied.
The problem happens when the little flap of tissue hooking the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is too short to let a baby's tongue latch on to the mother's breast. Lip tie, where the piece of skin between the top lip and teeth is too long, is a related ankyloglossia, as doctors call these oral issues that can hamper happy nursing. More than 4 percent of newborns are tongue-tied and need labial frenectomy, and about 3 percent have lip ties and need lingual frenectomy, Margolis says.
Mount Prospect mom Aleza Moore gave up on nursing her first son, Nelson, now 16 months old, because he couldn't latch on.
Breastfeeding specialists at La Leche League confirmed what Moore's doula told her when her second son, Eli, had similar problems: See Margolis, one of only two pediatric laser dentists in the world to earn the "master" ranking for administering a quick, bloodless, anesthetic-free fix with a laser wand.
So she was in "Dr. Fred's" dental chair cuddling 2-week-old Eli on her chest to see.
When Margolis peered in Nelson's mouth, he instantly detected a minor lip problem. "If he were my son, I'd leave him alone," he says.
In baby brother Eli, though, the lip tie was more pronounced. About 30 seconds, a few quick waves of the laser and just a couple of tears later, it was all over. Mom couldn't tell if Eli could suckle better just then because he had fallen fast asleep. Some babies sleep right through the procedure, Margolis says.
But for Poskozim, of Des Plaines, the improvements were immediate.
"Minutes after (the laser treatment) Grant latched on and we have enjoyed a much better breastfeeding relationship," she says.
For Chicago mom Linda Anderegg, a better tongue translated into that illusive quality-of-life commodity new parents crave most: a good night's sleep.
"He was never able to empty my breast before. He would finally fall asleep out of pure exhaustion of latching, losing suction, coughing and sputtering," she says.
"Now, Daniel is sleeping better at night because I know I am putting him down with a full belly," she says.
Robyn Monaghan is a mother and long-time journalist.
See more of Robyn's stories here.