This story was written by a mother I worked with recently and is shared with her permission. We both hope her story will help other families dealing with tongue tie by giving them a glimpse into the process of diagnosis, decision making, treatment and recovery.
"I noticed something wasn’t quite right the first time Mr. T, my third baby, nursed after he was born. It hurt. Nursing isn’t supposed to hurt, right? I assumed since I hadn’t nursed through pregnancy this time, it was just like having nipples of a first time mom, tender. Maybe. Big maybe.
Three days postpartum and I was still sore; in fact, I was starting to have red, peeling, and bloody nipples. What was I doing wrong? I checked and rechecked his latch, I could see a bit of tongue sticking out over his lower jaw, but not much. His mouth never seemed to open as wide as I would like, or at least that’s how it felt. My pediatrician diagnosed Mr. T with tongue-tie. I was beside myself with anxiety just thinking about the next time I would have to nurse, but I was not ready to let my poor baby undergo any type of surgery, no matter how small.
Five days postpartum, I reached out to a lactation consultant. She examined the baby’s mouth and declared there was no tongue-tie. She said I just needed to bear the pain until Mr. T’s mouth grew larger to take in more breast tissue.
But the pain I felt was unbearable. Latch on pain was so intense that I contorted my face and cried. I needed a break. I let my baby suck my finger and I comforted him by walking around and rocking. I hated nursing. Though I was being told otherwise, I knew something was wrong. Maybe the pediatrician was right and my lactation consultant wrong. From my online research, I gathered that all of the symptoms I experienced pointed to tongue-tie: the painful, bleeding and cracked nipples, the vasospasms, and the white and tapered nipple shape that would form after nursing.
I called another lactation consultant for a second opinion. I was able to email her a picture of my son’s frenulum. She diagnosed Mr. T with a type of posterior tongue-tie, and she gave me the name of a dentist about an hour and a half away from me who did laser tongue-tie surgeries. I scheduled an appointment with this dentist when my son was two weeks old.
The day of the appointment arrived. The doctor found that Mr. T did indeed have tongue-tie and lip-tie, which commonly occur together. The surgery would help our nursing issues; furthermore, it would decrease the likelihood of speech issues and dental caries, common disorders associated with tongue-tie.
The doctor had me hold Mr. T on my shoulder facing out, while lying in the big dentist’s chair. No one took my baby from me or made me wait in the waiting room. First, the doctor injected anesthetic at the sites where he would use the laser. And the crying began. I held on to Mr. T tightly and comforted him as best I could. They waited for the anesthetic to take effect, and then quickly clipped the two frenula (one under the tongue, one under the upper lip) with the laser. All of this took under ten minutes, and then it was over. It was awful to witness my newborn baby in pain. I cried when Mr. T cried. I asked my husband sing to him, because I couldn’t open my eyes or even think. Holding back the tears was impossible. When it was over, I was able to cradle my baby and calm him down immediately.
My nipples were still sore when I nursed him immediately after the surgery. I pumped for two days to allow my nipples to heal, and then tried again. I was so afraid I had made my baby undergo surgery and pain without noticeable difference in nursing. I felt guilty. What did I do? However, when I nursed Mr. T two days post-operation, it was pain-free! I was over-the-moon and so thankful I sought a second opinion.
I learned a lot from this experience, but the two things that stand out are: even if you’ve nursed before, understand that every baby is different and comes with his own set of challenges; and most importantly, listen to your Mommy gut! My gut was telling me something was wrong, even though I received conflicting advice. I did my own research, and I shudder to think of where my nursing relationship with Mr. T would be now had I not."