January 30, 2015

Our tongue tie experience

When Lottie was about 10 days old and I remember clear as day we were driving to my parents house and I turned to Todd and said how thankful I was and how blessed I felt about our little girl. God had blessed us with the natural birth we prayed for, I was recovering well and feeling great and she was nursing well and gaining weight. My exact words were "I'm so blessed and thankful she is nursing well and doing so great. So many women have troubles with breast feeding and I feel so lucky that this isn't painful and she is doing so well."

Well...that week things dramatically changed. I started noticing that she was fussier than normal, especially in the evenings. She would latch on and immediately let go and would get so worked up. In the evenings she would want to constantly nurse but never acted full or satisfied. Being a new momma, I thought this was normal, that babies just took awhile to eat and that 45 minute to 1 hour feeding sessions were normal. Then the pain came. It felt like she was chewing on me and I would cry when I nursed her. I knew this was not normal and I needed to see someone and quick. I made an appointment with a local lactation consultant to see if she could help us adjust her latch or make some suggestions to reduce my pain.

We met with Ashley on Saturday January 10th. She said that her latch looked okay, but made some recommendations to improve. She also immediately noticed that she had what is called a tongue tie and upper lip tie. I had heard these terms before but didn't know what it was. Basically a tongue tie is the vertical piece (frenulum) that attaches the bottom of your tongue to the bottom of your mouth and it can reduce tongue mobility. The lip tie is a frenulum between your lip and gum. The lactation consultant said these are pretty common and that Charlotte's wasn't the worst she has seen but it was definitely affecting her ability to nurse and she was compensating by using her jaw more. That explained why I felt like I was being chewed on! She also pointed out to us that Lottie's tongue couldn't make its way forward to meet her lips and that all the white stuff on the top of her tongue was dried milk because she couldn't get her tongue to the roof of her mouth to clean it off. She said we had a couple options, we could probably see improvements by adjusting her latch and doing what she calls "suck training". Which is basically using a small tube attached to your finger that milk can flow through and teaching the baby how to suck properly by maneuvering your finger. Our other option was to contact a dentist to see about having the ties revised via laser frenectomy. We decided to try the things she suggested over the weekend and call the dentist on Monday when they opened to at least check availability since it could sometimes take weeks to get an appointment.

As the weekend went on, I was in even more pain and wasn't seeing much improvement yet from the changes Ashley suggested. By the time Monday the 12th rolled around I couldn't wait to get a hold of the dentist. I called right when they opened and thanks to a snowstorm and terrible weather, there was a cancellation that afternoon! I called Todd at work right away and asked if we could make the trip to Dayton that afternoon to meet with the dentist to discuss the revision. Neither of us were thrilled about making the 45 minute drive to Dayton, especially in inclement weather and since we didn't know how Lottie would handle the car ride, but I was desperate for relief.

When we met with Dr. Notestine and he explained the procedure and after care and shared success stories, we decided to go ahead with the procedure. The advantage of a laser frenectomy over using a scalpel or scissors is that it is cauterized right away so there is no bleeding and the wound will heal faster. It was an instant procedure. It only took a minute and afterwards Charlotte nursed right away. I couldn't believe how much of a difference it made already. I wanted to cry I was so happy my baby was able to eat better. The next few days she was a little more sensitive than normal, but we had lots of skin to skin and snuggles to soothe her.

We made a follow up appointment with Ashley that week. She helped us with the after care exercises and gave us pointers that would help Charlotte learn to use her new tongue and increase mobility while also improving her ability to nurse.

It has now been almost 3 weeks since her revision. The exercises are hard for us to do, but they are important so that the frenulum doesn't regrow. She is nursing so much better than before and is gaining weight. She is now able to stick her tongue out beyond her lips and all the dried milk on top is long gone. Her overall temperament has changed too. She is more relaxed in the evenings since she is able to eat more effectively and fill her belly easier. She is calmer and easier to soothe and is in an overall great mood most of the time. We have one more week of exercises to do with her, but her tongue and lip have healed great. We had another follow up with Ashley and she said she looks great and she is so pleased with how quickly Charlotte has learned to use her new tongue. We haven't introduced her to a bottle yet as we didn't want to confuse her. Now that she is nursing so much better, we plan to have Todd give her a bottle soon as I will be going back to work in a couple weeks and she'll need to learn to take a bottle as well.

I was hesitant to share this part of our story because it is personal and was a difficult time for me to go through, watching my baby struggle to eat and be in pain during the recovery period. I decided to share because there isn't a ton of information out there about infant tongue/lip ties unless you know what to look for. One of the most important things they stressed to us in our prenatal classes was that if you intend to breast feed, you need all the support you can get. If I didn't have Todd's support or know of a local lactation consultant I don't know that we would still be breastfeeding, I may have given up already. It was a difficult decision to have her revised, but I'm so thankful we did. This may not be right for every family or every baby with a tongue/lip tie. It is a highly personal decision and isn't right for everyone. Having her revised was the right fit for our family and has greatly improved our breastfeeding relationship. We are so thankful at how much better she is doing and how she is growing now that she is able to eat easier.

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