Friday, February 28, 2014

The Trouble a Tongue Can Be - Fixing a Tongue Tie

If you've read any of my other posts, you'll know by now that my wife and I believe strongly in breast feeding.  What you'll also know is that breast feeding hasn't been the easiest thing for my wife and Jack.  When we took Jack to his first pediatrician appointment we learned that Jack was tongue tied as well as lip tied and had to have both corrected.  These issues were being linked to the trouble we were having breastfeeding Jack.  We ended up going to an ENT who specializes in tongue tie/lip ties when Jack was about 6 days old and while the procedure was difficult to watch, it lasted only seconds and we were out the door soon enough.  Unfortunately, it wasn't completely corrected.

A tongue tie on a young baby (not Jack)
A tongue tie, if you aren't familiar with the term is when the the skin under your baby's tongue is too tight and doesn't allow a lot of movement of the tongue.  This piece of skin, a membrane called the frenulum, is too short restricting movement of the tongue.  This can be detrimental in breast feeding when the baby tries to make a good latch and can't without proper use of his tongue.  To add to this, the mother experiences a ton of pain if the baby isn't latching correctly and a lot of chewing is involved with breastfeeding.  Sometimes, it can even affect speech later in life if it's severe enough.  A lip tie is similar but where the lip meets gum line.  After a couple months of uncomfortable breastfeeding, my wife and I decided to visit a pediatric dentist to get another look at Jack's mouth and to see if maybe something else could be done.

Leading up to the visit my wife was a nervous wreck.  She remembered the first procedure and while she didn't see it being done (Jack was in my lap) she did hear it and with her hormones in a twist that close to giving birth, the whole experience was very jarring for her.  We eventually went to the appointment yesterday and after a quick exam, the doctor confirmed that Jack was indeed still tongue tied.  His lip tie was fixed and looked beautiful but for whatever reason, the tongue tie wasn't corrected when done the first time.  This time the doctor was going to use a laser and the procedure would take a little longer than it had previously.  Reilly and I put on our protective glasses, handed over our son who was all smiles and cooing at this point, and sat in for the long haul hand in hand.

The procedure itself was horrendous for a mother and father to witness their 4 mos. old go through, but in hindsight it probably wasn't that bad.  There was some blood as the laser had to cut below my son's tongue and he screamed bloody murder, due to being held down, but he had something to numb the area and the pain wasn't the problem.  A 4 mos. old being held down to have an operation done isn't something that he would fully understand.  It was horribly sad to watch, but within 5-10 minutes (seemed like 30 minutes) it was over and we were heading home.

Last night was hit or miss with Jack.  He was given small doses of children's tylenol which helped here and there but overall he was a little more fussy than usual.  We have to do exercises with his mouth a couple times a day to ensure that the tongue tie doesn't form up again.  This involves putting your finger under his tongue and then sort of moving around and pushing the tongue up.  Besides the general discomfort of an adult finger in his mouth - Jack doesn't seem to mind much.  My wife is also reporting a more comfortable breastfeeding experience which is exactly what we were aiming for.

Hopefully this will permanently fix our breastfeeding troubles and my wife can finally get some relief from the pain while feeding Jack.  It was a horrible ordeal to watch as a new parent but in the end it was the right thing to do.  If you have any questions about tongue ties or the procedure, feel free to ask in the comments section.  There is also a wealth of information available via google searches.


  1. It's never an easy thing to decide to put your child through a procedure like this, but the tongue tie revision helped us so much with breastfeeding.

    We had ours done at 6.5 months, and had to travel to get it done, but I would do it again in a heart beat. It has made a world of difference and there was a post where I never thought I would breastfeed pain free.

    I wish more doctors were supportive of this practice, because we failed to get any help for a long time and ended up having to fight very hard to get it fixed.

    1. You sound exactly like my wife. She hasn't experienced pain free breastfeeding yet and honestly gets a little annoyed when she hears about others who "enjoy" breastfeeding. To her, it's never been a question of if she would breastfeed or not. She just put up with the pain. When we had to procedure done the first time we thought that would be it but the pain continued. We didn't think it would come back or not be completed successfully. Hopefully this time it's done for good, especially with the laser being used and initial feedings feeling a little bit better than before. I'm glad to hear it worked for your family though - really hope it does for us as well!

    2. Some doctors/dentists don't mention them, but doing stretches can be really helpful in preventing reattachment.

      Good luck to you and your wife! It's a tough thing to go through but it's so worth it.

    3. Yeah - the ENT we went to didn't mention anything about the exercises the dentist suggested. I'm guessing that whatever happened the first time was null and void due to inaction on our part because we just didn't know we were supposed to do anything.