Breastfeeding and Sensory Integration

Breast is best, and I was on board for breastfeeding long before my son was conceived.  I read every book I could get my hands on.  I could even tell you why algae DHA formulas are bad for babies.  About a day after birth my son started having issues with breastfeeding, one nurse saw that he was completely tongue tied.  I had to do battle with a pediatrician, but I eventually got a frenulectomy done on his tongue (we snipped the extra tissue).  He  did better for a little bit, then was almost failure to thrive again.  My body didn’t like pumping so that wasn’t an option.  I saw a few different lactation consultants, and finally the last one said it was me and had me put on anti-depressant for postpartum.  Let’s face it, I had an incredibly hard time nursing my son.   But it wasn’t  me, my milk supply wasn’t low, I wasn’t depressed, I had a sensory challenged baby, and I feel let down that no one picked up on it.

Maybe I’m too critical, or too optimistic, but I cannot help but wonder if any of these medical professionals  in my life helping with my breastfeeding issues had picked up on his sensory issues  if his development may have differed.  I think  we could have had a sensory diet in place for him since then.  I made it  seven months by the way, just out of sheer stubbornness.  It was grueling having a child who wanted to constantly be on the breast and who bit!  I wasn’t depressed, I was exhausted and could barely leave the house!

I don’t have much else to say on the topic, other than I’ve sort of began a small grass-roots operation to start raising sensory awareness in lactation professionals.  Breastfeeding is a complete sensory experience for an infant, and I can’t help but think that recognizing sensory issues will not only lead to a sensory diet as I mentioned above, but also more mothers succeeding with breastfeeding.  I’ll leave you all with a link I wish I had seen when I was nursing!


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3 Responses to “Breastfeeding and Sensory Integration”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I have no other evidence than my own neurology, but I don’t think it would have made any difference to your son’s development if the health professionals had recognized his sensory sensitivities. It might have made things easier on him — and you! — in the moment, but I don’t see his developmental trajectory changing. The sensory sensitivities/differences of autism are so pervasive that it takes a lot of work for someone to manage with them, and it is never too late to start.

    Plus, given that babies cannot tell you much about what they need other than the basics, neither you nor any health professional could have known what was up with your son until more developmental markers came into view. Lots of moms know that something is different about their autistic kids right away, but no one can really define what it is until the child is older. There are many reasons that babies have trouble breastfeeding, and chalking it up to sensory sensitivities can only be done way after the fact. If your doctor defines the problem as sensory and he/she is wrong, the child could have a serious untreated condition.

    All in all, I think you did amazingly well, and took breastfeeding as far as you could. I had to limit breastfeeding to three months with my daughter (because I had to go back to work and pumping was *out of the question*), and it’s still disappointing to think about after all these years, but it hasn’t done my daughter any harm at all. I think that your son is just fine as he is, and that he has benefited very well from all the measures you’ve taken!

  2. Melissa Says:

    As a mother of an autistic child it’s so easy to look back and see all the signs. These signs that we explained away. At 3 months he cried in a crowded room because I kept the house so quiet for example. I know some kids have been diagnosed with autism as young as 6 months. I don’t think Cade would have been, he was very bonded with me, he just didn’t like crowds, heck lots of babies don’t!

    I think me reflecting on the signs and not blaming myself for missing them is a step toward peace with this, it’s all relatively new to me still!

    I would have liked to not been thought of as being crazy when dealing with my son’s issues, but it’s all behind us really, I can and do wonder what would be different, and I can use my experiences to share with other breastfeeding moms who may experience something similar.

    They always say, there is no greater advocate for your child but you, I wish I would have fought harder, but as always hindsight is 20/20.

  3. Rachel Says:

    Diagnosed at 6 months? I don’t know who did the diagnosis, but it can’t have been a reputable doctor. The DSM-IV criteria for autism reference developmental markers that no six-month-old could possibly attain. See

    In any case, please know that you have not caused your son any harm *at all*. You are neither a neurologist nor a mind reader, and you’re learning about your son, day by day, which is what all parents do.

    For instance: When my daughter was in kindergarten and we were homeschooling, she couldn’t sit still. I’d read to her and she’d walk around my office touching everything. It drove me absolutely nuts, and I wondered whether she had ADHD. I figured I’d wait and see. By the time she could read the Harry Potter novels two years later, you couldn’t coax her out of a chair with chocolate! So, if she’d had ADHD, should I have felt guilty for not rushing in at the outset? I don’t think so. I figured she had her own trajectory and I’d watch to see where it went. And if I had rushed in and put her through all kinds of tests, I’d have been wrong, and that might have done her more harm than good.

    So, you never know. You just do the best you can. It kind of sucks that kids don’t come with instructions, but then again, it gives us some room for error. If they had instructions and we misread something, imagine how terrible we’d feel. 😉

    You have an abundance of unconditional love for your son, and that’s by far the most powerful and important thing you can give him.

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