Look in your baby’s mouth…
If you are breastfeeding.
If your baby is having difficulty latching correctly.
If your baby clicks, or slurps, while nursing.
If your baby isn’t gaining much weight.
If nursing is painful.
If your baby doesn’t seem to be nursing well.
If your baby is gassy, spits up, and fusses.
If you are googling ‘what is colic’ for an answer to what is happening with your baby.
If your baby doesn’t seem satisfied.
If your baby has trouble sleeping.
If your older baby is nursing less and less.
If it becomes worse when your baby starts to get teeth.
If you feel like you know something is wrong when everyone tells you it’s fine, that it’s just your baby’s personality.
If several of these things have happened to you, or are happening to you, I strongly encourage you to look in your baby’s mouth. Your baby might have a lip tie or tongue tie which is affecting her (and your!) quality of life and nursing relationship.
I’m saying this because Manny had a tongue tie, which was clipped in our pediatrician’s office when he was four days old.
“I’ve never seen more than a drop of blood during this procedure. I’d like to clip it today,” the doctor said.
I had no time to research, to google, to weigh the pros and cons, to obsess. There was blood. Much more than one drop. Blood filled the gauze pad. Then another gauze pad. Blood on my shirt, blood on the lambs and pale blue stars on the flannel receiving blanket I wrapped him in afterward. Then we attempted to nurse, which didn’t work so well. But, it was taken care of, right? Absolutely not.
At three weeks old I caved in one fretful night and had my husband locate an old pacifier my nurse-aholic daughter had never used. It brought quiet to the house, but it destroyed me. I had known the sweet peace of a happily nursing baby with my daughter, and I didn’t know why I was failing this time.
The tongue tie reattached as the clip (done with surgical scissors) healed. And despite asking the doctor to look twice at Manny’s six month visit, he said there was no lip tie present. But it sure looked like it to me, and it needled me for months as our nursing relationship struggled, and well-meaning friends told me that some babies just wean earlier.
Mama, trust your instincts.
Over the next six months my son gained very little weight. Tenth percentile. Fifth percentile. Skinny. He wouldn’t comfort nurse. He couldn’t nurse to sleep. He gagged. He cried. He screamed. He fussed. Arched away and cried more.
“Reflux!” the doctor said. Bring on the generic Baby Zantac! We drove over an hour to Nashville for the dye-free, naturally flavored version. But this “solution” didn’t feel right, either. One night my husband tasted the medicine—it was awful! And we’d been giving our sweet son TWO doses of this stuff for weeks. I decided it was time to stop. And you know what happened next? Absolutely nothing. He didn’t get better, he didn’t get worse. I was relieved to make a choice and stop giving medicine that apparently was doing nothing. But something was still needling me.
As his first birthday approached, he began to get his first teeth. That’s when he started crying more for the pacifier. When I tried to get him to latch after a nap one day, he bit through my skin with his one sharp little razor tooth, and shortly after, quit nursing during the day completely. Neither of us slept much at all. The pacifier fell out a thousand times a night (another sign of a tongue or lip tie, as well as a baby who cannot stay latched!), and I was turning into a zombie. I posted my story online in desperation for help from other mamas, breastfeeding experts, and complete strangers.
Get a second opinion from someone who specializes in ties. A pediatric dentist is a great place to start.
I first wrote about our breastfeeding problems here. Even though our first pediatrician said no, I still felt there was a lip tie. I took a photo and emailed it to the office of Dr. Larry Kotlow, who is a pediatric dentist, and, from my online research, apparently The Man to see for tongue and lip ties in the USA. I filled out the generic online “contact us” form with what felt like a sad, desperate, wordy little story about my son’s breastfeeding history. Dr. Kotlow himself emailed me back, on a weekend night, and agreed the lip tie needed to be revised with a laser. I made the first appointment I could get, and on my husband’s birthday we all piled in the van and drove to Albany, NY.
Following the procedure I had to do stretching exercises on both surgical sites for at least two weeks, which was upsetting for everyone involved. Craniosacral therapy is also recommended before and after the procedure (within 48 hours), as well as homeopathic remedies for stress and healing (Rescue Remedy for mama and baby, and a mixture of calendula and organic aloe for use on the surgical sites). It can also be helpful to speak to a La Leche League leader or get help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) following the revisions.
Four weeks have passed since the surgeries, and surprisingly, Manny’s tooth gap appears to be slowly closing. He started attempting to say several words a few days after the revisions, and now he’s actually developing a vocabulary, rather than simply pointing and grunting. When he smiles, I can see his front teeth now. The revisions changed the look of his face! He sticks out his tongue and laughs. (He’s never been able to stick out his tongue before!)
Nursing has been slowing improving. I’ve been battling a tanking supply and the strong oral aversion he developed once his teeth came in, but I’m not giving up. I refused to believe he was weaning early, and I’m so glad I did. He still only nurses in bed, but his latch has improved, and he is transferring milk easier and more efficiently. If you have an older baby, be advised that you may not see immediate improvement. I read so many stories of mamas successfully nursing right after the revisions in the dentist’s office, and when my baby clung to me, scared of being taken away again, and refused to nurse I was crushed. He didn’t nurse well until 2 a.m. that night, and I nearly cried for joy when I heard him swallowing and his latch didn’t slip.
This website is an excellent resource for information, articles, and photos. www.kiddsteeth.com
Many pediatricians, and even some trained lactation consultants, are not familiar with tongue and lip ties (especially the trickier posterior tongue ties) and often overlook them. Of course, many mamas are aware that their child has either a lip or tongue tie (or both) and they have no problems breastfeeding and never experience oral development or speech issues. Breastfeeding should be enjoyable for both mama and baby, so if you feel like something is not right, please look in your baby’s mouth!