Be sure to read Part 1 of this story, right here.
Ankyloglossia is also known as tongue tie. It is a congenital oral abnormality that limits the mobility and function of the tongue because of a short or tight frenulum. I have learned over the past 16 months that most physicians receive little to no training in breastfeeding mechanics, including pediatricians, dentists and ENTs. Over time as society has made a few different shifts from primarily breastfeeding infants, to then primarily bottle-feeding and now back to an increase in exclusive breastfeeding, much wisdom in regards to “normal” breastfeeding has been lost, or simply forgotten. Many new mothers are told that the first 6 weeks are the toughest which gets translated into “push through the pain, it is normal”. Painful breastfeeding is not normal and should not be overlooked as it is an indication that something is wrong.
Painful latch is most often due to improper or poor latch. This is usually very simple to remedy by ensuring baby is getting a deep asymmetrical latch. Baby should have a good portion of the areola in his mouth – not just shoving the nipple in baby’s mouth. Other reasons for painful latch can be engorgement, nipple trauma, thrush, vasospasms, and last but not least tongue and upper lip tie.
Tongue and upper lip tie can also be the cause of engorgement, nipple trauma, thrush, recurrent mastitis, and vasospasms. Sadly, tongue and upper lip tie are often the very last thing baby is evaluated for, and often times it is missed entirely due to a lack of education on the part of physicians and lactation consultants. The great news is that this is changing through a network of passionate advocates for tongue and lip tie education.
Below is a list of common symptoms associated with tongue and upper lip tie. If you and/or your baby are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek help from an IBCLC and advocate for your baby. These symptoms are not merely pieces to be picked apart, but are part of a total picture. So, just because your baby is gaining well, doesn’t necessarily mean tongue and upper lip tie should be rejected as the culprit for breastfeeding difficulties.
Babies begin learning to suck while in the womb which means tongue tied babies begin to compensate early on. This inevitably causes problems once born and if left untreated can continue well into adulthood. Tongue tied babies may have trouble starting solids or have speech difficulties or recurrent tooth decay. Tongue tied adults may also struggle with different aspects of eating, tooth decay or inflamed gums, migraine headaches, and speech impediments that can have emotional impacts that affect relationships. Read more about the consequences of untreated tongue tie, here.
My sweet Clementine is now 16 months old and still breastfeeding. There were several months of different therapies she needed post-frenectomy that helped loosen tension built up in her body from improperly sucking. I’ve personally been on a self-confidence journey through the course of Clementine’s treatments and therapies. I really thought I knew all about breastfeeding when I had her, but I’ve come to learn I knew very little. My pregnancy with her made me question my desires to ever become pregnant again. Breastfeeding her in those first days made me question my passion for breastfeeding and my confidence as a mother. Standing on the edge of the “post-partum depression cliff” and then learning my baby was in essence starving, gave me wings to fly off that cliff and fight one of the hardest battles I’ve ever fought.
Only I could do it, no one else could be her voice. The raging momma lion came forth and I did what I never believed I had the strength or moxy to do. I traveled with a 3 week old baby across the country for treatment when no one here would listen. I should have been resting in bed, snuggled with my new baby. I know for certain many people thought I was crazy and I received comments that accused me of putting my baby in harm’s way by prematurely exposing her to dangerous germs while traveling. But what else was I supposed to do?
I’m thankful for the past 16 months. I’ve learned that I am stronger than I believed myself to be and more capable than I ever thought I was. I overcame self-doubt and anxiety. I did what had to be done, nothing more and nothing less and I’m thankful for all those who played a role in making sure my Clementine got all that she needed. All of this has led me to begin my journey to becoming an IBCLC. I know it will take a few years, but I’m dedicated to the cause and believe that all mothers should have access to competent and knowledgeable lactation support.
In the end, the dedicated efforts of local IBCLCs and the stories of other local moms who have gone through the same thing, we now have a wonderful provider in Baton Rouge who has taken up the cause for tongue and lip tied babies. He is performing the very same procedure that my Clementine had in Portland by Dr. Ghaheri. He traveled to New York to get specific training from one of the experts, Dr. Kotlow, DDS. We also have phenomenal providers offering tongue tie specific therapies pre and post frenectomy. I’ve created the Louisiana Tongue Tie Support Group on Facebook where moms can come and receive support and accurate breastfeeding information. Providers are welcome to join, learn and be part of advocating for better access to care for our tongue tied babies. The goal is to inform the community that tongue and upper lip tie negatively affect breastfeeding, for mom and baby. It is something that can be treated without general anesthesia or separating baby from mom for more than a few minutes.
For more information about Tongue/Lip Tie and how breastfeeding can be negatively affected, please take care to visit the links below.
Tell Me About Tongue Ties – By Norma Ritter, IBCLC, RLC – Breastfeeding USA
The Evidence Supports Treating Tongue Tie for Breastfeeding Problems – By Bobby Ghaheri, MD.
Tongue and Lip Tie Articles – By Larry Kotlow, DDS.
The Basics of Tongue and Lip Tie: Related Issues, Assessment and Treatment – By Melissa Cole, IBCLC, RLC and Bobby Ghaheri, MD.
Also, feel free to join the Global Tongue Tie Support Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tonguetiebabies/
Crystal Sewell is a loving wife and homeschooling mother to 4 daughters. She served in the United States Air Force and holds a Bachelor’s of Social Science with a concentration in Education. In her spare time, Crystal is a dedicated and vocal advocate for improving breastfeeding outcomes in her community while also advocating for Tongue and Lip Tie Education through the Louisiana Tongue Tie Support Group. Her dream is to become an IBCLC and open up a breastfeeding clinic in Baton Rouge. You can email her at [email protected].