Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I have not been trained professionally nor have I worked in a professional setting in regards to anything medical. I am simply a mom. A mom who has experienced quite a bit with three tongue-tied babies and has educated myself to the best of my ability as an amateur. This post is written solely based on my own limited experiences and my opinions have been formed off those experiences alone.
Ruby’s Tongue Tie Releases
Ruby had her tongue-tie released three times. Yup. Kinda crazy. The first time was by an ENT while she was under general anethesia (GA) for a hernia repair. She was 3 months old and the ENT would only do the prodecure under GA. Lucky for us, she was already scheduled to undergo a hernia repair so we worked it out.
During recovery I nursed her. She nursed beautifully. Wonderfully. LIke a dream come true. I remember updating my FaceBook status rejoicing that God had made a way for us to nurse.
But the ease and effectiveness of her nursing was short lived. Very short lived. As in, less-than-a-week short lived.
I was not informed about anything related to pain management nor any exercises to prevent the frenulum from reattaching (this is when the tissue that was cut away heals back and the tongue remains restricted). I remember a few days after the frenectomy, noticing a huge white blister under her tongue. I had no idea what to expect. The ENT did not discuss ANYTHING with me about what to do or expect. I thought it was puss and so I called his office concerned about infection. (Pretty ignorant, huh? Yeah… that’s how they reacted too.) I was told that was a normal wound that was healing.
This should be good, right?
Only if it heals with space between the tongue and the floor of the mouth. Otherwise, it heals right back into a restricted position. And that’s exactly what happened. Back to square one. Only I didn’t know that we were back to square one. So I was extremely frustrated that she wasn’t nursing properly again. I blamed myself. I blamed her. I started to think that the crazy things ignorant people say about nursing babies could be true. Maybe she was just a lazy baby. So lazy that she can’t or won’t eat? That’s kinda the opposite of lazy though. Most lazy people gorge themselves. But when you’re only getting a few hours of sleep a day for months on end then you loose the ability to think clearly. That’s where I was: Lost, desperate, confused, depressed, disappointment, and ignored by the medical community.
Ruby was six months old when we were blessed to find Jennifer Tow. She was so wonderful to help us. I don’t even know if we would still have Ruby if it wasn’t for her. At least not the Ruby we have now. She got me in touch with a wonderful pediatrican in Gainesville who clipped Ruby’s tongue again that same day. I remember rushing down there in a furry when I got the call from her to come that afternoon. Not only did she fully release her tongue-tie, but did so without all the ridiculous drama of an IV, general anethesia, or other shenanagans that the ENT put us through. Best of all. She got Ruby off her nursing strike and to the breast. Immediately Ruby was able to remove 1 ounce of milk from me in less than a minute. I was able to get her to nurse once or twice after that. But again it was short lived. I wracked me brain trying to figure out why! Ruby wanted to nurse and now she could move her tongue freely. So why wasn’t she?! What was I missing!? The doctor claimed that there was some disagreement in the tongue-tie community about exercises. She did not think they were neccessary and was very experienced in releasing tongue-ties. She had a very good success rate of mother’s going on to nurse their babies. I trusted her. I did not do the exercises.
Jennifer Tow pushed me to do them the next time I spoke with her. But it was too late. Several days had passed and there was already reattachment! The doctor may be right about infants that nurse. (If an infant is nursing properly every few hours, they will move their tongue quite a bit and therefore they may be able to avoid reattachment even when forgoing the exercises. It is a risk that now I would not take. However, it may be possible.) But our problem was greater than this. Ruby wasn’t nursing at all except those two times the night of the release. So she wasn’t moving her tongue.
Ruby’s attachment became so severe that she could not even properly drink out of a bottle. The Doctor clipped her a third time. We did exercises this time, by golly! I’m glad to say that today, Ruby’s tongue is very mobile! If there is any restriction, it is minor.
But the situation was never resolved the way it should have been. Ruby did not nurse. Not properly. Not effectively. And shortly after each procedure, NOT AT ALL.
The exercises were effective in preventing reattachment in Ruby when we did them the third time. However, there was a missing piece that kept use from going on to have an effective and established nursing relationship. It remained a mystery until my next child was born. Tongue-tied of course.
Josiah’s Tongue-Tie Release
Josiah was born a healthy weight of 7 pounds 14 ounces. That was thrilling after having given birth to Ruby, only 5 pounds 2 ounces. What was even better is that he did not have a large obvious tongue-tie. (Also a step-up from Ruby!) But the best part was the fact that he latched on immediately after birth, the first try, and nursed like a champ! Whoa-Whoo!!!!!
But a week after his birth, unpleasant familiarity appeared. He began smacking at the breast. Or clicking some people call it. Regardless of what you want to call it, he was constantly loosing suction and would have to reattach himself. This is a problem. It can lead to a lack of letdowns, improper milk transfer, gagging, swallowing air, and anything else bad you can imagine. You know, those wonderful moments in the middle of the night filled with screaming and they call it “colic” because the doctor is rather clueless of what is really going on. Yup… that!
So I put a call into Dr. Gary Myers. Since Ruby’s birth, he has traveled to watch Dr. Kotlow release infant tongue-ties and has also been in contact with Jennifer Tow quite a bit. And he uses laser instead of scissors. Josiah’s tongue-tie was not extremely restrictive. But he did have quite the lip tie. We released it and had immediate improvement. Stretches and exercises and no reattachment.
By this time, I have embraced alternative medicine and knew that if he acted in pain to give him some homeopathic remedies (arnica and hypericum). After a good week or two, he was pretty much healed up.
Then it returned again. The smacking. I finally had enough of it and called Dr Myers again to release his tongue-tie. He was six weeks old this time. Nursed imediately after the procedure and I rode home with my healthy baby boy on the back of a unicorn.
That night, Josiah stopped nursing. He would lay down and suckle at the breast. Barely. I couldn’t unlatch him, he would cry and cry from hunger because he hadn’t removed any milk. I made my home-made lact-aid to try to help him. It helped once. or maybe twice. But not really. I was PETRIFIED!
Why?! Why is this happening to me again! I did everything right!
About a week of misery, disappointment, fear, anger, and every other negative emotion imaginable, I had a revelation. I was laying in bed “nursing” him. I was exhausted. And I began to think.
“He was smacking before his tongue-tie release, but at least he was nursing! It has only made things worse! I’m buying a bottle tomorrow morning if he doesn’t nurse by morning. I never should have release his tongue-tie. It wasn’t perfect, but at least we were nursing!”
And then the light bulb went off!!!!
I watch him. With every suckle his forehead wrinkles. If he actually swallowed he would whimper. I remembered my poor husband after his tongue-tie release. He said it was some of the worse pain ever. It hurt for over 6 weeks. Josiah was obviously in pain. If my tongue hurt, I wouldn’t want to move it. I would try everything I could to KEEP from moving it.
I imagined my body’s response to such a wound. If I had a cut between my fingers, a deep cut, I would tape my fingers together and avoid spreading them at all cost until it healed back. Until it healed back… But if I only opened it once or twice a day to spead it, then I would be reopening the wound each time and tearing it back open. It would begin healing and then everyday I would tear open the healing just to hold it shut again for another 12-24 hours. It would NEVER heal like that! No! It would hurt for weeks and months. Imagine the scare tissue that would build up after the constant healing and tearing. Healing and tearing.
Perhaps THAT’S why so many babies have such a tremendous build up of scar tissue after a frentectomy! Perhaps pain is why Ruby wouldn’t move her tongue to nurse even though she had the ability to and why Josiah won’t nurse now!
I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen like I was being chased by a pack of wolves. I grabbed Arnica and Hypericum. I dissolved the tablets in water and fed it to Josiah using a syringe. I rocked him for 20 minutes while it kicked it. Then we laid down to try nursing again.
And he nursed! Oh, the beautiful sound of swallowing! Oh, the ecstasy of a forceful letdown! The wonderful sight of a sleeping, satisfied baby with milk dripping from the side of his mouth. Amazing!
I continued to give remedies despite it being downplayed by others. I was told that after 3 days an infant won’t feel any pain. Even though my husband was in pain for six weeks, infants heal much faster and so I shouldn’t nee to give the remedies. But the remedies worked when nothing else did. I would try to stop giving them every few days, seeing when the pain stopped. He would quite nursing every time and whimper in pain during a letdown when he had to swallow against his will.
Guess how long I gave him remedies…
After six weeks there was no more whimpering while swallowing or forehead-wrinkling while sucking. Interesting, huh?
I can’t help but wonder about Ruby. IF after that second release I had given her something for pain, would she have nursed? I don’t know. It’s possible. It definitely saved Josiah’s nursing relationship. I’ve suggested this to several others that have contacted me and they have seen success as well.
Perhaps it is true that a frenectomy on an infant would be pain-free in three days if we weren’t reopening the wound each time we did exercises. But we must do them to prevent reattachment.
Perhaps the doctor in Gainesville could be right. Maybe, MAYBE, exercises aren’t needed if you treat for pain. If there was no pain when moving the tongue, then the tongue could naturally rise off the floor of the mouth while talk, eating, chewing, swallowing, and sucking on it’s own. How would the skin between your fingers heal if you kept your fingers apart constantly because you were pain-free? I would suspect that it would take longer to heal than if the fingers were taped together. I would also think that the body would eventually heal with the gap that was cut between the fingers being wide open.
My journey with Ruby could have been different if I had treated her for pain. It may not. There’s no way to know. But her not nursing did push me learn more, try more, and reach more. For that I’m thankful. I’m also thankful for God who is with us no matter how dark the night and will reward us if we are faithful to him. It matters not what my journey for Ruby held, all that matters in the end is that I have a wonderful daughter that is full of life today. I am thankful for that! I have determined that I would trust God no matter what I thought of him keeping or not keeping his promise to me that Ruby would nurse again. And I have found that God is always faithful.
She doesn’t nurse terribly often. There’s not much milk transfer when she does because I have none (I am 16 weeks pregnant with #4!) But she is nursing. God keeps every promise he makes us!
***For more information about the remedies for pain that I gave Joey and the exercises I did on him, see my page on Tongue-tie exercises. Click here.***