Surviving Lip and Tongue Tie

The challenges of motherhood are many. But, for me, none have been as heart-wrenching, tear-jerking and mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting as coping with lip and tongue tie with not one, but two babies. (And I’m not out of the woods yet.)

We’re all born with tissue that connects our top lip to the gum and our tongue to the bottom of our mouth. Babies with lip and tongue tie have extra tissue in those places that restricts their movement.

Those impairments can lead to a host of problems. Breastfeeding and speech are just some of them.

My daughter, Madeline, was just a few weeks old when I started having lots of pain while nursing on my left side. Then a large and deep crack started to form. I was a new mom, but I knew in my gut something wasn’t right. I scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant here in Knoxville. She took one look at me and said, “That’s one of the worst cracks I’ve ever seen.” Even though I was inexperienced in this department I knew deep down things were pretty bad even before I saw her. That’s why I wasn’t shocked to hear her words.

A quick physical exam of Madeline confirmed her suspicion.

Madeline had both lip and posterior tongue tie. Then my lactation consultant asked me to nurse Madeline so she could observe our latch. She pointed out that Madeline’s little lip didn’t have the movement to flange properly. Her tongue also couldn’t make the motion to breastfeed without gulping down lots of air. It turns out THAT was the clicking noise I heard when Madeline nursed. I was fortunate Madeline was still thriving physically despite our issues. My lactation consultant said my large supply spared us. Unfortunately, not all lip and tongue tied babies can get enough of their mother’s milk to grow properly.

My lactation consultant gave me detailed information about treatment options for Madeline and for me. My supportive husband and I decided against the traditional method of having a medical professional “clip” Madeline’s lip and tongue ties with a pair of scissors. Instead, we opted for a newer method—a laser. At the time, a local dentist was offering the procedure. The laser appealed to us because the risk of infection is much lower. It was no walk in the park to watch our sweet daughter be zapped with a laser, but it was over in seconds. The results were almost instantaneous. I nursed Madeline immediately and the clicking was gone. Just. Like. That. We did lip and tongue exercises with Madeline for a few weeks to make sure the tissue didn’t attach again. (And it didn’t.) Meanwhile, I pumped to give myself time to heal.

When my son Bennett was born, I noticed similarities beyond their round little faces and cute noses. Specifically, Bennett’s top lip looked tied—even worse than Madeline’s. There were also differences. Bennett spit up a dramatic amount in comparison to Madeline at that age. When the pain and a crack started to form again (this time on the right side), I was slower to act. Perhaps it was because I was juggling a newborn and a toddler. Eventually, the pain was so intense I didn’t even want to feed my little boy despite his hunger cries. That knowledge racked me with guilt and heaving sobs. My husband was again very supportive as I struggled to feed Bennett. (I even cried out in pain at one point.) He encouraged me to start pumping immediately and give my body a break. Then we quickly scheduled an appointment with our lactation consultant.

During her house call (yes, she came to our home AND it was covered by our insurance!), she once again delivered a lip and posterior tongue tie diagnosis. This time my own situation, however, was even grimmer. She was concerned about the depth of the crack and the risk of infection. I was beyond pumping and using prescription all-purpose nipple ointment. I needed medical intervention. Her diligent research uncovered that dermatologists often treat these severe cracks. I would have never guessed the doctor who checks my moles annually would be able to treat my issue! As for Bennett, we once again opted for the laser treatment. Unfortunately, the local dentist who performed Madeline’s procedure was no longer treating lip and tongue tie. We road tripped to Chattanooga on Valentine’s Day (how romantic) to see a highly recommended pediatrician who did the laser treatment. The procedure went flawlessly. Bennett has healed, and he rarely if ever spits up. (All that air he was gulping down was the culprit.) My healing continues, and the prognosis is good.

Still, I realize that’s not the case for all moms who are trying to survive lip and tongue tie. The answer for our family may not be the one for yours. My lactation consultant made all the difference (including text messages of support), and I encourage you to seek one out if you can. Remember I’m with you in solidarity surviving the best I can.

Are you surviving lip and tongue tie? Share your story by leaving a comment!

, , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to Surviving Lip and Tongue Tie

  1. Elizabeth March 23, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    Same situation with both my children. My first born (daughter) was the worst. They saw how bad hers was the second she was born. Both my OB and the nurses all immediately noticed. The laser option was not even an option for us do to the severity of her tongue tie. She had it clipped at five days old and then at 2 she had to have her upper frenulum completely removed along with her tongue clipped again but this was all done surgically. My son’s was also found at birth but no nearly as bad as his sisters. His was clipped at 10 days old. His upper frenulum doesn’t seem to be an issue YET. But compared to his sister right now he will probably not need any further surgeries to correct any thing on lip/tongue ties.
    Glad everything went well for you as well. And a newborn and toddler are a challenge, been there still dealing with it! All us mama’s have to stick together!

  2. Ashley Chambers March 24, 2017 at 11:31 am #

    I am a new mom of twin girls! I discovered my girls had tongue ties after both my girls were dehydrated and one ended up in East Tennessee Children’s hospital. I was so unaware of tongue and lip ties. I was experiencing toe curling excruciating pain while nursing. With the help of an IBCLC I was guided to discover their ties! My husband and I chose to have the revision done for our girls. We traveled to Chattanooga to see a pediatrician, who did the laser revision. I still continued to face extreme pain while nursing and my girls still didn’t seem to be gaining weight. They also still didn’t flange their upper lip. My husband and I were very lost as to why this was continuing. We chose to get a second opinion of a second IBCLC. In her findings she believed the girls ties were not even fully released! We chose to then see an Oral Surgeon in Knoxville, who used scissors. By this time my girls have already learned how to suck improperly. Their ties are released, but now is the battle for them to learn how to properly suck and latch. We also see a Chiropractor to help release tension that ties cause.It’s a process to recovery. I find myself upset that my girls have had to face this! The medical community today, is so unaware of ties, leaving a mother to believe they can’t feed their babies in the most natural way! I wish every hospital at birth would check babies mouths for ties and clip them if desired by the parents. Facing these issues has made me to become an advocate for ties, and to persue in becoming an IBCLC. I’m a mom in a small town, surrounded by other moms, who deserve to know why breastfeeding, the most natural way to feed, doesn’t work for them!

  3. Natalie March 24, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    I was so thankful that my daughter was my second-born so that I had a reference point to know our miserable first few days together wasn’t normal. I wonder how many mothers think that a baby nursing feeling like a bear trap IS normal. Thankful for the guidance I received from the hospital LC who referred us to an ENT. I feel like my PPD lightened and I was able to emotionally bond with my daughter naturally and easily after the procedure.

Leave a Reply