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.