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‘It was truly hellish’

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GROWING UP FAST Lyra, pictured with her mum Kat Slater, has made a full recovery, despite living with an undiagnosed classic type 2 anterior tongue-tie conditon for the first five months of her life.

Mum’s ‘horrendous’ five months as baby ‘starved’ while common condition not diagnosed 

Feature
Michael Gallagher

A Mayo mother claims the lack of breast-feeding support in Mayo University Hospital left her baby in agony for the first five months of life. Kat Slater, from Kiltane, said her daughter, Lyra, was let down by doctors who failed to notice a classic case of tongue-tie, which left her starving and suffering alarming weight loss.
Ms Slater maintains she and her partner, Ross, continuously suggested their daughter was suffering from the impediment, which affects up to 10 percent of newborns, but their appeals fell on deaf ears.
“Nobody took us seriously. We were at our wits’ end, and Lyra was failed by Mayo University Hospital. They jumped to medication to try and solve Lyra’s feeding difficulties instead of noticing something a doctor in Dublin picked up in seconds.
“I firmly believe a lactation expert in MUH would have noticed the problem immediately too, but we never received such support – the most basic of supports which should be afforded to new mothers.”

‘Exhausted’
Lyra was born in August 2020. Everything seemed normal at first. Then, after two weeks, she developed a problem when breastfeeding and started to cry almost continuously.
“She started to cry a lot – hours and hours every day – six, seven, eight hours constantly screaming. We didn’t know what to do, and in fairness to the public health nurse, she tried to help us and suggested a number of possibilities,” Ms Slater told  The Mayo News.
“At the beginning it looked like it might be colic and she would grow out of it. However, babies should feed for maybe 30 minutes at a time, but Lyra would pull away and start screaming after a minute or two. We couldn’t get her to feed, and she wouldn’t take a bottle either.
“I cannot tell you how bad it was. The longest she slept for in her first five months of life was 25 minutes at a time and for that to happen we had to hold her sitting on an exercise ball and bounce for an hour and a half before she would drop off. Then she’d wake up and start screaming again.
“She had a constant frown on her face … We were in town one day when a child saw her and said, ‘I’m going to call her Miss Cranky, because she looks so cross’. He was right, she always looked sad and frustrated and never once smiled in her first five months of life, which is horrendous when you think about it.
“She was so unhappy. She was angry all the time and we were at our wits’ end. We were absolutely exhausted and it was truly hellish.”

Tube fed
When Lyra was born she was average weight but as weeks progressed she gradually deteriorated until she was in the lowest 9 percentile of weight for babies her age, and she was sent to MUH. There, after being treated for some days in the Paediatric Ward, reflux medicine was prescribed.
“We had been briefly seen by a senior doctor but there was no word of lactation support. It wasn’t even mentioned. We were so stressed and utterly lost, we clung onto the hope that the doctors might be right about reflux.”
However, the problem was not solved, and Lyra was admitted to MUH again a few weeks later.
“We were at breaking point. The screaming had continued and the weight had dropped to alarming levels. She wasn’t feeding,” Kat revealed, explaining that little Lyra was now in the lowest 2 percentile of weight for babies her age.
“In the hospital they put a tube into her tummy through her nose and she was fed that way for a week. She slept better and screamed less, because she was actually being fed, but the problem wasn’t solved.
“We were utterly lost at this stage and there was no mention of a breast-feeding expert. All they told us was to put a feeding regime in place where we could only attempt to feed her every four hours.
“Even in my distressed state I realised this was crazy, so on my way out I actually said to a nurse ‘Is there anyone here who’s a lactation expert?’. The nurse said one of the midwives was qualified in that field but there was no post for her in Castlebar. She happened to be working that day and came up to see Lyra.

Turning point
“That was the turning point – five months into Lyra’s very miserable life,” Kat confided.
“The nurse changed everything because she was an expert in the field. A few weeks later we were sat in front of a doctor in Dublin, he examined Lyra and immediately said she had a classic type 2 anterior tongue-tie which prevented her from moving her tongue properly to feed.
“We couldn’t believe it. This was a ‘classic case’, yet nobody had picked it up and Lyra’s whole first five months of life had been utter sadness. She had been starved, sad and frustrated yet nobody had picked up on it, despite us suggesting it time after time.
“There was no lactation support for us in MUH, and it was only a chance meeting with that nurse which changed Lyra’s life. I cannot understand how a little baby could be failed like this. The trauma has had a huge impact on us as a family. We always wanted more children, but after Lyra’s experience we cannot imagine bringing another baby into the world where such a simple thing was allowed to almost starve our daughter in such a cruel manner.
“Our daughter did not smile for the first five months of her life. That should never happen in a society like this.”
 The Mayo News contacted the HSE twice for a response to the above story, but none was received by time of going to print.