Friday, August 7, 2015

Tongue-Tie in Babies: Lessons Learned By A New Mom

I am so excited to be sharing this post from my friend, and fellow Occupational Therapist, Rachel from Can Do Kiddo. She wanted to share HER experience with having a child with a tongue-tie and how it affected her nursing relationship with her little, as well as the things she learned so that she will be able to have more success with her next little.

Breastfeeding is natural and women have been doing it since the beginning of time. So why wasn’t it working for me?! In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m happy to share our Tongue-Tie journey and what I’ve learned along the way with fellow parents.

Latch Issues and Nipple Shield Dependency


From my days in anatomy class, I knew that the soft tissue underneath the tongue (the lingual frenulum) and the soft tissue between the lip and gum (the labial frenulum) can be too tightly attached or attached in an abnormal location - causing a Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie.

What I wasn’t prepared for was being told that my adorable one-day old had both. As the Lactation Consultation showed me I thought, “You mean THAT??! It looks like nothing!” But I couldn’t deny that despite great interest in breastfeeding, my little guy couldn’t latch on.

Lesson Learned: In such a tiny mouth with such a big task as breastfeeding, even what look like small abnormalities can make a big impact.

Breastfeeding Success

With great support from Lactation Consultants in the hospital, we got the hang of breastfeeding using a nipple shield and home we went. Two weeks later, with coaching from an outpatient Lactation Consultant, we mastered the latch and weaned off the nipple shield completely in a few days.

Lesson Learned: The expertise of Lactation Consultants can make a huge impact on the success and comfort of the breastfeeding relationship and in a new mommy’s confidence!

Why Does My Baby Seem Hungry All The Time?

Aside from initial latch issues, my newborn didn’t show the more obvious symptoms of a Tongue-Tie, which can include poor weight gain, reflux, fussiness at the breast, baby fatiguing while nursing, and prolonged feedings.

However, looking back I do see that some more subtle things that may have been attributed to his Tongue-Tie:
  • Paci Troubles: My guy couldn’t keep a paci (which he loved) in his mouth on his own until he was over 3 months old, and even then there was only one brand he could latch onto. 
  • Frequent Feedings: He has always averaged a few more feedings every 24 hours than “the books” said was expected at his age. 
  • Nipple Pain: I experienced intermittent nipple pain that I attributed to yeast but that never looked like yeast to my midwife. 
  • Feeding Quirks: While my guy transitioned smoothly to solid foods, he never spit foods out like other babies. I thought this was great but looking back I see that it was likely because he couldn’t.  

Lesson Learned: Sometimes the effects of a Tongue-Tie are subtle.

Why We Didn’t Have Our Infant’s Tongue-Tie Clipped or Lasered 

Tongue-Ties are very frequently repaired using surgical scissors or a laser. There are plenty of providers in my area who treat Tongue-Ties, so why didn’t I have my newborn’s Tongue-Tie fixed? Plain and simple - fear and a lack of information.

I was terrified to put my newborn through what I imagine would be a painful, bloody procedure involving anesthesia (local or general - I wasn’t sure) and a painful recovery. Because we hurdled our initial breastfeeding challenges quickly, I thought the Tongue-Tie was behind us! Our pediatrician didn’t make a big deal of it at all so we didn’t think twice.

I also didn’t fully understand what a Posterior Tongue-Tie was and I assumed that it was less problematic than an Anterior Tongue-Tie. A Posterior Tongue-Tie is much harder to see because the attachment of the frenulum is further back under the tongue, leaving the tip of the tongue free. What I later learned from a Speech Language Pathologist and from our ENT (ear, nose and throat doc) is that the location of the tie isn’t as important as the tightness of the tie in determining how much of an impact a child will face.

Lesson Learned: Parenting from a place of fear doesn’t always result in great decisions.

Why We Finally Decided To Have Our 1-year-old’s Treated

The biggest reason why we decided after 12 months to have our son’s Posterior Tongue-Tie clipped was concern about his speech. With our baby’s first birthday on the horizon, we started noticing that in all of his babbling and mouthing and silly faces we almost never saw our little guy’s tongue. It laid flat and wide on the bottom of his mouth, tucked just behind his front teeth. He was saying “Dada”, but being the OT mom I observed that he wasn’t lifting his tongue to do it - he was compensating by lifting his lower jaw.

We watched him closely for over a month, played games with his tongue and encouraged him to imitate us lifting and sticking our tongues out with no success. I knew that if we waited, he might develop speech habits and oral motor patterns that are HARD to unlearn.

At his 12 month check-up, his pediatrician wasn’t able to physically lift his tongue to see his tie (which she had been able to do at his 1 month check-up) and supported our decision to see a specialist.

Lesson Learned: The effects of Tongue-Tie can extend beyond breastfeeding.

That’s IT?! Tongue-Tie Repair Day 

I thought we were just seeing an ENT for a consultation, but after determining that our boy had a moderate tie the ENT casually offered to clip it that day. Gulp! We discussed and I was shocked by what I learned. No anesthesia? No big recovery? Not that painful? A 2-second procedure? I agreed and they took my kiddo from me (and I had a good healthy mama cry about it).

I did hear him cry a few rooms away but he was distressed from being separated from me and being held down. I couldn’t distinguish the moment they actually clipped his tongue from his sounds (which was oddly very reassuring to me). They brought him back with a little bit of bloody drool and allowed and encouraged me to breastfeed. He happily chowed down and was back to his chipper self within a few moments. No more bleeding. No fussy day. I gave him 2 doses of Motrin, per the doc’s orders but I’m not even sure he needed it!

Lesson Learned: In a baby, Tongue-Tie repair is usually a minor, quick procedure with minimal recovery.

What We Will Do Differently Next Time 

There is a genetic component to tongue-ties and so I’m prepared to make different decisions with Baby #2’s arrival this fall. In the event that a Tongue-Tie is seen, I’ll have it clipped within the first month - in the first days if we’re facing breastfeeding challenges.

Here are some great resources that I wish I’d found much earlier in our Tongue-Tie journey that might be helpful for you:





Rachel Coley, MS, OT/L, is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, writer and  regular mom with milk stains on her shirt and 3 day old makeup on. She blogs at CanDoKiddo.com where she helps fellow parents confidently and playfully give their babies the healthiest start possible.


Connect with Rachel at CanDoKiddo!  




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39 comments:

  1. I think you are a smart parent to your kid. I am not a father yet but I learned some great lessons from the lessons you learned about tongue tie. LESSON LEARNED: Take care of your baby and be very cautious to every simple signs of irregularities, even tongue tie. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and support.

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  2. You know... growing up, I remember when we went to say something and couldn't get it out, our parents would say... What are you, Tongue Tied. I had no idea it was a real condition until later in life.

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    1. Haha - I've heard that expression, too! Let's hope "cat's got your tongue" isn't based on a real phenomenon, too!!! Thanks for reading!

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  3. This is so very interesting. I only heard about this for the first time recently when someone I know adopted a newborn and was told that they were tongue-tied. I'm happy he was diagnosed at birth to avoid too many issues. Thanks so much for sharing...

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    1. Glad you learned bit more about the issue! It seems many don't know about it until they are experiencing it with their own babies. Happy to share our story!

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  4. I never heard of this condition! This is very educational I never knew this was a defect verses hearing this as a saying "tongue tied" I wonder if this is the true origin of that!

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    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful. Awareness is growing, likely because so many parents are motivated to breastfeed and this is one of the common challenges to a smooth start with breastfeeding. I'm happy to share our story!

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  5. I haven't had to deal with tongue tie but it is interesting that it can mess with their speech. It makes perfect sense, I just never put the two together.

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    1. I hope we got it early enough that it won't affect speech long-term! The ENT mentioned that it can also affect kissing - YIKES - nothing like thinking about that when you have a baby in your arms! Thanks for reading!

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  6. I never knew this was a thing! I'm actually planning on breast feeding when I have my baby (In November) so this is really good to know.

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    1. I hope you don't face the same challenges, but if you hopefully you'll have some information to guide you through the process. Congratulations (I'm due in November, too - third trimester is right around the corner)!

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  7. I never heard of this condition but am happy to hear that it is so easily remedied! If I ever hear of anyone having this problem I will certainly tell them what you told us and encourage them to research it further and not wait!!

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  8. I'm so glad it was a minor complication and that they easily clipped it so he could nurse. Thanks for writing about this, I know it will help so many people!

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  9. I had no idea this existed! Thanks for sharing. We haven't had kids yet so a lot of this is off our radar. Never too early to learn though!

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    1. I'm so glad you learned something new! Thanks for reading.

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  10. Great info. I know quite a few mamas who had to deal with this and I hadn't heard of it until recently. This is a great post and I will be sharing! - Jeanine

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  11. I have never heard of this before, I always thought it was a figure of speech when someone got mixed up with their words. Thank you for sharing and informing your readers

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    1. Glad you found it informative! Thanks for reading!

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  12. I knew about tongue tied. I heard about this condition when our pedia checked on my daughter because of delayed speech. It was a relief to know that she wasn't tongue tied.

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    1. So glad it wasn't tied! That would have been a late diagnosis if it had been!

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  13. Pretty interesting I have a friend that have a tongue-tie i heard about their condition she is exclusive breastfeeding and lacting direct from her is too painful so she bought her baby into the doctor and do the lazer operation

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    1. I'm so glad she got the help she needed - that will do wonders for breastfeeding!

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  14. I understand the fear. Not the same thing, but my Dr wanted me to get an amniotic w/one of my children and I was scared of the minimal risk. I ' m glad all turned out to be so easy for you in the end. :)

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    1. It's easy to be fearful of anything with even the slightest risk of hurting our little ones, isn't it. Turns out that every now and then googling for more information isn't a bad thing :)

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  15. I don't know much about the facts of babies who are tongue-tied but this post has enlightened me! This must be difficult for any mom to go through!

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    1. Glad you found it helpful! Thanks for reading!

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  16. My daughter was born with both the lip and tongue tie. She lost almost a pound within the first 4 days and I couldn't get her to latch at all. We had the ties corrected and were able to stop bottle feeding and nurse with a nipple shield. Eventually we weaned off the nipple shield and she finally took the breast! What a proud moment:) so glad we got hers fixed!

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    1. What a great story! Thanks for sharing your success - glad you got it fixed, too!

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  17. I'm so glad you were adamant about the issue. I've had doctors and LCs brush me off. The lactation consultants thought my first might have had this problem, but they didn't seem very keen on helping me get over our nursing issues. The last one I saw basically gave up on me and told me that "maybe you could breastfeed your next baby." Without their help, I successfully have nursed all three of my children well into their toddler years.

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    1. Wow - I hate to hear that even LCs brushed you off. I'm so glad you were able to figure things out on your own but that's such a tough road! Glad you persisted!

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  18. Great information!!!! I'm a HUGE advocate of breastfeeding. I ended up having to exclusively pump for 15 months.

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  19. Wow, such helpful information. Definitely going to share this to my parenting sites! Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing! Glad you found it helpful!

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  20. My friends baby was born this way and they fixed it with surgery.

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Thanks a bunch for your comment love!