Tongue tie seems to be a hot issue in the world of breastfeeding these days. About 7-10% of babies have some level of tongue tie, which tends to run in families. It can cause significant problems breastfeeding: nipple trauma, poor latch which leads to slow weight gain (and, ultimately, failure to thrive in some babies), decreased milk supply, and early weaning. My fourth child was diagnosed with tongue and lip ties. Here’s our story.
Jack Thomas was born at a whopping 9 pounds, 6 ounces! (You can read about my VBAC birth story here.) But while he only lost 3% of his birth weight, it took him four weeks to gain it back. To put this in perspective, we like to see babies regain their birth weight by 2 weeks old; after three weeks if they have not yet regained birth weight many doctors will classify a baby as failing to thrive.1 I believe it is only because Jack was so large at birth that he had the strength to make it through this first month and not cause red flags for the doctors.
At one month, he did regain his birth weight, but while he was born in the 99th percentile for weight, he had dropped to the 25th percentile. Here he remained and I didn’t think too much about it. He was very long and lean, but that runs in my family so I figured he got it honest. And while I know that it is healthy for babies to have fat around their cheeks, thighs, etc. I also knew I was nursing Jack on demand and he seemed settled and content between feeds.
I was lucky since I didn’t suffer from any pain while nursing. In addition to his slow weight gain in the beginning Jack had a shallow latch, made clicking sounds when he nursed, had a nursing blister on his top lip, and couldn’t deal with a fast milk let-down (I cannot begin to count how many times my iPad was sprayed with milk!). But again, I just figured this was my Jack as I was nursing on demand, co-sleeping with him, etc. and his pediatrician was not at all concerned.
When he was two months old, he was diagnosed with a tongue tie and lip tie. Because I knew there were other benefits to revising a tongue tie than just breastfeeding issues (which I wasn’t terribly concerned about) I decided to have them clipped. I had a hard time finding someone to clip the lip tie without general anesthesia, which I didn’t want to do, but I did have the tongue clipped…and I didn’t notice any difference; if anything I thought his latch was worse.
At this point my mentor in lactation became involved and realized Jack not only had a common “anterior” tongue tie but also a “posterior” tongue tie. These are much more difficult to diagnose if one doesn’t have experience. By this point Jack was 3 1/2 months old and still in the 25th percentile for weight. I had his tongue tie clipped a second time and the difference was remarkable.
Though I still felt like he had a shallow latch, Jack immediately starting putting on more weight. In just 2 1/2 weeks he had grown from the 25th to 50th percentile for weight and for the first time in his life had pudgy cheeks, a double chin, and chunky thighs. Clearly his tongue (the most intricate muscle in the body!) was able to work more efficiently. When I had him weighed at 5 1/2 months he was back up to the 99th percentile, where he continues to remain.
When Jack was 8 1/2 months old I was able to have his lip tie revised by laser. It was a simple procedure – taking less than a minute with no bleeding. At the same time I had one session of Craniosacral Therapy (CST). While I was a little skeptical that this would have much of an impact I was surprised when, two days later, Jack stuck out his tongue for the first time in his life. At first I kept wondering how this was related to the lip tie release, but it later dawned on me that he is able to stick out his tongue and have full range of mobility because of the CST.
Having Jack’s posterior tongue and lip ties released was a journey. However, I am glad I continued to pursue them and we were able to have them done while he was still young.