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Tongue Tied

on February 15 | in Motherhood | by | with 52 Comments

I once confided in a friend that Micah prefers sucking his thumb to nursing. “Oh yeah, my boy is like that,” she told me. “I nurse him until he’s sleepy and then he pops his thumb in to finish the job.”

So I let it be.

Something didn’t feel right, but I was juggling life with two little ones and excuses were just so easy to find.

Excuse #1 – He’s just a lazy nurser . . . a typical laid back second born.

Excuse #2 – I’m comparing him to my experience with my daughter and they are different babies.

At nineteen pounds he’s not exactly malnourished, but he never rolls back his eyes with satisfaction as he gulps mouthful after mouthful of cream and sugar. That bothered me, so when I ran out of excuses I called Mellanie from For Babies Sake (Btw, if you need help call her. I was sooo comfortable with her, which was a plus when she asked to see my boob).

Turns out the reason my little man looks like he’s doing calculus while he nurses is that it’s hard for him. He has a tongue tie that went undiagnosed for FIVE MONTHS, which means he really has to concentrate to get any nourishment.

On the night I found out about it I sat on the floor and cried my heart out. That sounds overly dramatic, I know, but I really did. I’m so grateful that he’s otherwise uber-healthy and that this is correctable, but I thought he hadn’t comfort nursed for the last five months because he didn’t want to . . . not because he can’t.

This Thursday Daddypotamus and I are taking him to a Dallas specialist in hopes that he will agree to do a frenectomy (cut the little flap of skin that’s holding Micah’s tongue down. It’s horrible, I know.)

He has never experienced the satisfaction of a deep latch and a flood of sweet milk, but I am giving him what I can. And as you can see in the video below he’s not exactly suffering. Still, I can’t wait to get this corrected so he can get the comfort he’s been missing out on. (On the other hand I’m totally freaking out that someone is going to go near my baby with a knife. If you’re the praying kind, please pray that this procedure will go well.)

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52 Responses to Tongue Tied

  1. Whittney says:

    Poor little man! Henry Boy still does it occasionally and loves his thumb. Hope your appointment goes well and he gets it all fixed!

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heather Dessinger, Heather Dessinger. Heather Dessinger said: new post: Tongue Tied http://www.mommypotamus.com/tongue-tied/ [...]

  3. Lesley Spradlin says:

    Oh my gosh Heather—this is EXACTLY what Lexi had!! Undiagnosed for almost 3 months…and really the only reason why we figured it out this early is because it was so bad it had led to our yeast/thrush issue. I went to the Dallas Group and had the frenectomy done—it was much less painful on me ( HA!) than I expected! As you know–Lexi had stopped latching before we had this done so we knew this was our last ditch effort at getting her to ever latch again. Our situation was different because she had already developed total aversion to the breast from how bad it was for her and I think from my trying SOOO much to get her back on…so I am soo thankful you guys have caught this and are getting it done before Micah hit this place!! I loved the office in Dallas–the main guy that Mellanie recommends was not available to do ours so we had his partner do it and I LOVED him. He was so gentle with Lexi ( and me!) and encouraged us to nurse immediately to stop any bleeding and comfort her. I think you will be pleased with the experience as scary as it sounds. Praying this is your solution! I have done so much research on the “un-diagnosed tongue tie” ever since this and found out its much more common than we realize!

    • Heather says:

      Lesley – I had never even heard of a tongue tie until you mentioned Lexi’s. Now that I know it is hereditary all future children will be welcomed into the world with me shouting “Check baby’s tongue. I want to nurse!!!”

      Thanks for your thoughts on the procedure. Dr. B’s nurse talked with me extensively yesterday. I was impressed by how much time she was willing to spend with me considering I hadn’t committed to an appointment.

  4. dianthe says:

    ugh. being a mom is SO hard – i struggle with being the obsessive “i’m doing everything wrong” parent and the laid-back “they’ll be fine” parent – the latter found Myles and i at the pedi’s office on Friday with an eczema outbreak that turned into a staph infection (thankfully not MRSA, just regular staph) – Dr. Mommy had initially diagnosed it as Fifth’s Disease – where do i collect my Mother of the Year plaque?
    don’t beat yourself up about it – sweet Micah is happy and healthy and it’ll only get better after the frenectomy – i’ll be praying for you guys!
    oh, and maybe my favorite quote will be of some help to you – i apply it to Mommyhood on a regular basis – “You did then what you knew how to do, And when you knew better, You did better.” – Maya Angelou

    • Heather says:

      Poor Myles! . . . but that actually does make me feel better, so thank you. :) The award office contacted me about my nomination for NRH Mother of the Year, so maybe we can ride together to pick up our plaques. :)

      P.S. I love Maya Angelou.

  5. Lesley Finney Spradlin via Facebook says:

    Oh my goodness–this was our issue! So glad you are addressing it now!

  6. Emily Brown says:

    interesting….good to know there’s a reason. I will be praying and looking forward to an update! *hugs*

  7. Sarah O says:

    Heather,
    I don’t know if I’ve commented before, but I do enjoy reading your blog. I recently had the frenulum cut on my now 3 month old. My firstborn was tongue-tied (not enough to prevent her from getting what she needed or nursing for comfort, but I think it made for a lot of short, frequent nursing) and I didn’t know about getting it cut until she was much older. When I noticed it on my third, we got it clipped right away. IT WAS SO EASY! I couldn’t believe it. He barely cried and it was so fast. With us, they numbed it a bit and then held the tongue up with two q-tip things and then clipped it with what looked like cuticle scissors. Super easy, I almost wish I had just done it myself and saved myself a trip out with a newborn! And then afterwards, the nursing has been much easier! So I guess I want to encourage you that it will be quick and easy (not as easy as with a newborn, of course, but still, quick!) and maybe he’ll still like his thumb, but at least you’ll know it isn’t because his tongue is tired!

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Sarah! You are a sweetheart for taking the time to comment with a three month old in the house. I am so glad you had a good experience and I hope ours is just like it!

  8. Julie Whetstine via Facebook says:

    my little guy was tongue tied — and getting him clipped at 11 weeks was so easy and while he did have to re-learn how to nurse that just took a couple of tries and we lived happily ever after! ;-)

  9. dianthe- that’s a great quote! don’t let yourself feel guilty heather! you are one of the most loving moms i know, and i mean that.

    julia was tongue-tied, but it was visible at birth. the lactation consultant at the hospital pointed it out, which explained why she had a heart-shape at the end of her tongue. i just thought it was cute!

    julia had medicaid and her pedi wouldn’t do the surgery so the only place we could go was really, um, not suitable. so we waited till she got on riley’s insurance after a year. she was able to nurse, but was always in the bottom percentile. that may have been partly due to me trying to stick to a schedule, but it did take forever for her to finish a feeding and it was VERY painful the first few weeks, probably because of the tight frenulum. we got it done by dr bauer at ent for children in coppell when she was 18 mos. at that point she wasn’t nursing very often anymore but after the surgery her talking increased dramatically. i wonder what her speech would’ve been like had we not done it!
    i was so afraid for her going under the knife (and anesthesia) but it was over in what felt like a minute, and she was absolutely fine! no complications afterward at all. i’m glad we had it done and vowed to do it right away with future children if needed (josiah didn’t).

    thanks for sharing. after reading lexi’s and micah’s stories, i bet more moms will be on the watch out for these hard-to-notice issues!

    • Heather says:

      Wow, Joanna, I am SO IMPRESSED that you stuck with bfing now that I know the whole story! I have a whole new respect for moms that push through in these kinds of circumstances. Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. Tana says:

    When I was a La Leche League Leader/Lactation Consultant, I saw this more than I would have imagined. (Here is one of many good articles, in case anyone wants to read more..)

    http://www.intelligentdental.com/2010/08/26/how-do-i-know-if-my-baby-is-tongue-tied/

    It is important for babies to be checked at birth – it is a cause for a lot of poor latching/poor weight gain/sore nipples/delayed speech/speech impediments, even. It is also surprising how often it goes undiagnosed, and I used to wonder how many women who thought they couldn’t produce enough milk or that their babies fought the breast/preferred the bottle were actually struggling with this issue and didn’t know.

    It is GREAT that you found a doc who will take care of this for you. I remember twenty-something years ago, when I was helping some moms with this, they had to look far and wide for someone who would clip the frenulum. I knew a pediatrician in Austin years ago that would always check the boys he was circumcising and snip the mouth at the same time, as well, if he saw it. Sad, I know, but at least he was willing, which was pretty impressive at the time. One dentist I talked to about one of my clients said that the reason it doesn’t cause more problems with speech is that most children will either stretch it out eventually with use, or it will tear, like when they take a hard fall, and the parents aren’t usually aware. He was not concerned if they couldn’t breastfeed and would only recommend the procedure if they weren’t speaking correctly by the time they started school. Weird, huh? And frustrating, at the time.

    Anyway, SO glad you are getting this taken care of! I think you will be REALLY happy with the results. I can totally relate to the “oh my gosh, if only I had known” feeling – we’ve all been there in one area or another (and if someone hasn’t, they will be), so embrace your growth and knowledge and keep walking this path with joy. It is long, and there are always more things to learn! Will definitely be praying for you guys Thursday! And, Hurray! for docs who care enough to help.

    • Heather says:

      Tana – I thought exactly the same thing about mom’s who have low supply. Now that I know how common this problem is I will definitely be telling new moms to check it out if they are having problems. Or experienced moms, really . . . I wasn’t a new mom and this totally snuck up on me.

      And yes, YAY for compassionate doctors. The specialist we’re seeing is making special arrangements for us because of Micah’s age.

  11. @ Lesley. Me, too : – )

    @Julie – Thank you for sharing your experience! Micah is past the normal age that this procedure gets done but I’m hoping for our own happily ever after. I love nursing my babies!

  12. Alexis says:

    When I breastfed my daughter she took her time in the first few months and then at about 3 months she became a speed demon and would finish in less than 5 minutes! I dont think it was a tongue-tied issue though. I did check her tongue today…just to make sure! This is good information to know for future children!

    Wlhat a cute video of Micah! Happy little fella :)

  13. Amy W. says:

    Heather, I will be praying for you and Micah on Thursday. I know it will be hard, but the payoff will be so sweet. He will be excited to find out what he has been trying so hard to get. My sweet girl still nurses (I really think I should really think about weening her.) and I love every moment of it. I don’t think I will have any more kids, so I am really relishing every baby moment I have with her, and those are quickly fading.

    Have a blessed day and a restful Wednesday.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you, Amy. I hope to have more children and yet I find myself relishing this baby phase with Micah even more than I did with Katie. Back then it was hard to believe the sleepless nights would ever end . . . now I know how quickly it goes by and I am loving (almost) every minute of it.

  14. Sarah says:

    Piper had this same thing and we waited till she was 6 months to get it done. It was soo fast, and she did great. Bring a favorite toy for him to hang on to. ( I didn’t and Piper grabbed the sterile package and wouldn’t let go for over an hour. At least it was sterile, but we got funny looks at target later). We weren’t allowed to go back with her, which really freaked me out, but our Dr said that babies freak out when parents are in the room. It only took like 5 minutes, and she had stopped crying by that time. I just got to enjoy the extra snuggles.
    I was afraid she would have trouble nursing after that, but she latched right on, and I got to see the sweet look on her face of being satisfied. She was always a great nurser, but then she was AWESOME!!! Sounds like he likes nursing, and I think it is helpful to wait Till they are 5 or 6 months old. She was more apt to go right back to nursing after, because she’d done it for so long. (The dr said younger babies have trouble nursing again). Your making the right choice, and he will do great! Way to listen to your mommy insticts!
    Praying for you guys!

    • Heather says:

      Sarah – THANK YOU!!! I am so glad to hear from a mom whose older baby had this done. Thanks for the toy tip. Micah has a favorite monkey that will now be joining us.

  15. Christy Thompson via Facebook says:

    Praying it will go smoothly. I’m sorry it took so long to be diagnosed, but so blessed you did find out!

  16. Melanie Buck says:

    You and Daniel are wonderful parents and I am so glad you have found a physician you are confident in. I love and support you and I have thanked God in advance for a better than we could have ever hoped for answer and solution. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.
    Much love XXX

  17. Vanessa Stegner says:

    Praying for you Momma! I’ve been on the floor crying with my babies too. You are a great momma and Katie and Micah are so blessed to be yours :)

  18. Rena says:

    Oh heather, I don’t think it’s crazy you sat down and cried! I cried for you both just reading this. Bless your hearts. I am so glad it went well today!! Hugs

  19. Oh my goodness, what a buttercup! He’s so precious. It’s so fun to *see* him as he’s so close to Griffin’s age and they are doing the same things!

    Be gentle with yourself, my friend. He’s CLEARLY thriving and trust that you found out *exactly* when you and Micah were supposed to. God’s in charge and He knows what he’s doing :).

    I’ll be praying for you guys. I know a friend who had this done for her son and it worked out great.

    Cheers.

  20. Melodie says:

    I’m sorry I missed this post until now Heather. Today is Thursday and I hope everything went well for all concerned. Let us know!

  21. [...] . . Until a few weeks ago, when it began to feel like he was drifting. He would nurse for a few seconds and push me away, or just not latch on at [...]

  22. Elisabeth says:

    My husband’s little brother was tongue-tied. They were told in the hospital that the operation was going to be a big deal – expensive, scary, I don’t know what all. But the family lives kind of in the boonies, and there’s a country doctor down the road, and they took the baby to him (for a second opinion?) and he said, “Oh yeah. That’s easy.” And snipped it right then and there. Gabe’s been fine ever since, and now that relieving anticlimax is a family story. Of course, I’m telling this vaguely and third-hand, so I’d love to get the details on how it went for you and Micah.

    • Heather says:

      It is a relatively simple procedure for newborns because the nerve ending haven’t fully formed and they’re easy to hold still. Because he was older, Micah had to endure more discomfort, bled more and was more difficult to keep still (putting a five month old under anasthesia has risks and Is VERY expensive, so we had to keep him awake and swaddle through the procedure).

      Maxillary ties are more difficult. They can’t be snipped because it will just create scar tissue that is thicker and tougher than the original tie. These days a few docs have lasers, which increase healing time and minimize scar tissue, which is why we have to fly to New York to have it done.

  23. [...] mama for 43 months straight now. Nursing Katie was as simple as breathing, but Micah? He’s a different story. Two minor surgeries and many months later we’re still going strong, and what better way to [...]

  24. Rebekkah Smith says:

    My oldest son was tongue tied when he was born, and it went undiagnosed. I’m still SHOCKED that no one ever looked at it. His tongue was very “heart-shaped”. I had to use a nipple shield the whole time I nursed him, because he would never latch on properly, even after the little procedure. It is genetic, and we found out my father-in-law was tongue tied when he was born too.

  25. I am surprised you didn’t mention the PAIN of nursing a babe with the terrible tongue-tied latch. My daughter and son both had this, it only took 2 days of nursing before I knew DD had a “tight frenulem”. How did I know? I was was born with a SEVERELY tight frendulem, requiring TWO frenulectomies. My mother was unable to nurse. She thought there was something wrong with her ability to make milk. Untrue! I was unable to stimulate her milk production. She also thought it was REALLY painful to nurse. Untrue! It was just I was unable to latch correctly. Thank goodness for formula because I was losing weight left and right and was almost hospitalized. (Which would have bankrupted by parents at the time!) Long story short, this is VERY common but with the over-use of formula and decrease in breastfeeding, this condition is not diagnosed or if/when it is noticed the mother already has the kid on formula, feeling like a breastfeeding failure. Back when a baby’s sheer survival depended on the ability to nurse you will find frenulectomies were quite common.
    It is an out patient procedure. My ped. did it in the office with a sterile scissors. They did it in the hospital with my son the first day he was born. (I demanded it!) Good luck and your son will thank you when he is older when he can lick an icecream come or french kiss (haha) neither I do. lol (My parents would actually order me ice cream cones and then laugh at me trying to eat it. Nice.

    • Heather says:

      Wow, that is so sad about you and your mom! But you’re right, it’s a HUGE factor with “milk supply” issues. SO GLAD you knew what to do with your son!

      P.S. Having nursed a toddler throughout my pregnancy I didn’t notice any real discomfort even though my son was severely tongue tied. I think my body was just desensitized.

  26. [...] son’s tongue was tied to the floor of his mouth. She was right, though, and somewhere inside I knew it. Unlike most babies, Micah woke more often to nurse as he grew older – by five months it was [...]

  27. Sarah says:

    Hey Heather!
    I spoke to you back in Jan. when we FINALLY realized my poor DD had a class IV lip tie. We got in fixed by Oser. Now here I am with a 4 month old and our problems are starting. Up until recently she has slept like a champ, pooped frequently and been just happy and so easy. So I decided to leave the tie be while things were so good – didn’t want to mess with success! As of late, she’s started waking at night, going days without pooping, and being fussy. I feel like my supply is going down. Guess its time to call Oser! She also sucks her fingers and looks like she’s doing calculus when she nurses! She’s never been milk drunk and would rather fall asleep sucking her fingers than nursing. It’s a 5 hr drive for us and she absolutely HATES the car seat. But I know it’ll be worth it in the long run.

  28. […] A note on our extenuating circumstances. My son was born tongue-tied, which meant he was still waking every TWO hours to nurse at 8 months old. No sleep for 8 months = […]

  29. Janna says:

    Being tongue-tied may be caused by mutations in the MTHFR gene. This gene is a factor in many congenital malformations of the midline, including neural tube defects and congenital heart defects. Read more on the website mthfr.net. This gene codes for an enzyme that is active in folate metabolism. Remember how pregnant women are supposed to get plenty of folate? Well, if you have mutations in this gene, you have trouble using your folate, and taking folate as methyl-folate bypasses this step. This gene is a factor in many medical problems people deal with today, including depression, autism, alzheimers, allergies, autoimmune disease, and more. 2 of my siblings and I have mutations in both of our mthfr genes. My sister was tongue-tied.

  30. Emily says:

    Hi Heather, I am so glad I stumbled across your website in my late night breast-feeding-web-surfing. After powering through 10 weeks of painful nursing, I am finally starting to get some answers. Within a few hours of reading several of your posts, I emailed Dr. Kotlow and returned to my lactation consultant. Both confirmed lip and tongue ties! We are seeing a specialist in a week, and hopefully getting this addressed at last. It amazes me that this is such a common issue, yet it took me specifically asking about it to discover it. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences on your blog!

    • Heather says:

      I am so glad you’re finally getting answers, Emily! My third child was born about six months ago. We had his corrected right away, and it has made all the difference. I hope you see improvement as well. <3

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