Friday, May 18, 2012

breastfeeding update: tongue-tie part one.

 (That little "heart" shaped tongue = tongue-tie!)

Earlier this week, I was the guest in a breastfeeding class at our local midwifery school. I was there to talk about our experience, from birth until now, and the challenges we've faced along the way.

Mid-way through class, I started feeding Ruthie in the rocking chair. When I finished, the lactation consultant facilitating the class asked if we'd had any problems with tongue-tie. If you've read some of my earlier bf'ing updates, I mentioned that I am dealing with nearly-constant nipple soreness. It's not enough to make me wean, but it is uncomfortable and I know that it shouldn't be like this.

I have read so much about tongue-tie and thought that it was the issue, but none of the LCs I've met with and mentioned it to followed up or acknowledged that it was a possibility, so I thought that it was something else, like vasospasms or Reynaud's, or even thrush. But I knew it had to be something else, because no matter what I did, the soreness didn't get any better.

This consultant, though, could tell that Ruthie had a tongue-tie just by watching her eat. Her side (each girl has a "side") is constantly sore and inflamed, and I said as much. I also said that she "clicks" while she eats, which is a classic flag for tongue-tie. I told her that I had mentioned it at previous LC visits but they didn't pursue it any further, so I've just been waiting it out.

The teacher put on a pair of exam gloves and while Ruthie sat on my lap, she showed the class how to do a check. She showed them that she most definitely had one and that it was a significant "speed bump", and she also had a tight labial frenulum (the skin between the upper gums and the lips). Then she said, "See, even babies with rolls can have tongue-tie!" She told the class (and me) that for some babies, tongue-tie doesn't keep them from taking in milk and gaining weight, but the mother ends up bearing the brunt of the abuse. That is definitely our story!

She sent me some articles and resources after class, and today, I made an appointment with an ENT in our area that specializes in treating tongue-tie.  He is also going to check Afton and see if hers is significant enough to treat. After the visit, I am going to schedule an appointment with the girls' chiropractor who specializes in gentle cranio-sacral work, which apparently can help with dysfunctional sucking. There are also some oral exercises that we can do after the tie is repaired to help "rehab" her sucking and to keep the frenulum from re-fusing.

I am frustrated that my concerns weren't taken seriously before, and that it has been 10 months of near-constant soreness on my end, but I am so thankful that I volunteered to make the trip out to the school so that someone could confirm my suspicions and help us move forward!  I will definitely do a follow-up post after our appointment next week.

Here are some excellent articles that helped me, first by alerting me to the possibility of Ruthie's problem, then by helping us plan a solution:

Why does it hurt me when I breastfeed? an EXCELLENT pdf handout on tongue-tie. 
Suck Dysfunction: Tongue-Tie on
Is My Baby Tongue-Tied? with pictures.
Frenetomy Surgeons and Practitioners
More great articles from Luna Lactation, scroll down to "Tongue-Tie" section. 

Tongue-tie is not an unusual or uncommon problem. Are you having problems with unexplainable nipple pain and soreness? Is your baby fussy at the breast, or have reflux-like symptoms? Do you have low milk supply that doesn't seem to be getting better? It might be tongue-tie!

Has anyone else had their older babies treated? I am nervous about how Ruthie will do...I've read that they hardly feel it at all when they're little, but that after six months they give general anesthesia...I'm nervous!


  1. Wow — it's sad it took this long for someone to really listen to you! I'm glad this consultant did and hope things get better soon. Yowch, just thinking about your experience.

    1. Thank you, Lauren, things are already better! It may take a while for my nipples to heal, but they were both snipped yesterday and the difference was immediately noticeable with one of my girls, I'm hoping the other follows suit :)

  2. My oldest daughter is now 31 with five children. I didn't know it at the time, but she was most probably tongue-tied as were some of my other children. Of her five children , three have been tongue-tied. It was hard for her to nurse the first baby, but she managed. Baby two was ok. But she had major problems with breastfeeding the third baby. By three weeks she was miserable. She read up online about her symptoms and checked the baby's tongue. Poor little guy. The tip of his tongue was literally stuck to the bottom of his mouth. He couldn't move it at all. She took him to the lactation consultant who sent her over the the just hired pediatric dentist. Fortunately, his wife had a similar experience and he cleared his schedule to clip my grandson's tongue immediately. It took about three more weeks for him to learn to nurse properly.

    Her fourth baby also had it enough to be fixed within 24 hours of birth. The ped dentist told my daughter to let him know when she went into labor and he would come check and fix if needed. The pediatricians didn't check and were trying to question it, but the ped dentist persisted.

    Back to her now 5yo who had speech problems. There were words she couldn't pronounce and she knew it. She wouldn't try because she was so frustrated when I tried to help her. The dentist didn't want to clip her tongue because it would require anesthesia. Good news/bad news was that unfortunately before she knew she was pregnant my daughter had taken some antibiotics that weakened the baby's forming teeth and now her daughter had tons of cavities from it. Ped dentist had to put her under to fill that many. Good news is that he agreed to clip her tongue (though even he had reservations about it at that late date.)

    On their way home from the procedure, they stopped at our house to pick up the other children. My granddaughter came in and said something. Her next statement brought tears to me. "Grammy, I said it right." Talk about an immediate result. From then on, she would ask me, how do I say that word and I would show her how to make the sound she couldn't make before her frenulum was clipped.

    Other than that, they didn't have to have any therapy, but two were still newborns and the older one didn't need speech therapy because she figured it out.

    And now I know why it hurt me so much to nurse so many years ago. Every baby should be checked by peds or the lactating consultant. But if they don't you can check it yourself and if you think there is a problem, find a pediatric dentist or ent who is sympathetic.

    PS: I went with my daughter to the next dentist visit and made a point to tell him thanks for fixing the 5yo's tongue and how it made a difference with her speech.

    1. This made me feel so much better! I am reading that it is very common, but some doctors don't necessarily check for it, which is too bad. I'm so glad the Ped dentist was on your daughter's side! We found a great ENT who specializes in tongue-tie and he was wonderful - they both had significant anterior ties!

  3. I totally know the LC from Luna - she is amazing! So glad she was able to check Ruthie. I'll be praying the procedure goes super well!

    1. Thanks Gretchen! I did go well. Both girls were snipped. I'm posting about it tomorrow :)

  4. First of all it is so fantastic that you have persevered in breastfeeding your twins despite the immense pain you must have been experiencing. I am so glad that your daughters tongue tie has been picked up at last. Here's to a wonderful breastfeeding relationship for the future!

    1. Thank you, Amie! I too am hoping that it allows us many more happy months :)

  5. How serendipitous -- albeit 10 months later! So glad you have answers now.

    1. Thanks Courtney, I feel the same way!


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