Thursday Thoughts - Tongue Tie

Let's talk, guys. Let's talk about tongue tie. A little weird for a food blog, but hopefully not too weird. I'm going to share some of my experience with my daughter and tongue tie just because I'm hoping it might help out some other mom reading this, and partially to explain my very long absence from posting. So let's talk, guys, in five thoughts.

1. Tongue tie isn't just forgetting your words when you are flustered. It's a real condition, officially called ankyloglossia. It is when there is an unusually short or thick membrane under the tongue that restricts its movement. There are varying degrees of severity, but basically it affects how far a tongue can stick out or up. I don't have the space, pictures or knowledge to fully explain the condition here and I don't even want to pretend to be an expert, so I will direct you to http://www.tonguetie.net if you want to find more info on the condition.

2. Tongue tie runs in families. I had tongue tie. And lo and behold, my second daughter was born with it. And chances are, she got her mommy and daddy's nearsightedness, too, poor thing. Ahhh, genetics. Let's hope she forgives me one day for not being Giselle Bundchen.

3.  Tongue tie can really mess with breastfeeding. Nursing requires a baby to use their tongue to get milk from mama, and with a restricted tongue it either means they can't get much milk or they often have a tight, not deep latch that is painful for mama. Because of this, it used to be a fairly routine procedure to clip the thick membrane under the tongue right after birth if a baby was born with tongue tie. When bottle feeding became more common than breastfeeding, this practice stopped, since a restricted tongue doesn't cause as many problems with bottle feeding. Today, the general feeling is that leaving things alone unless they are causing problems with nursing is the best practice.

4. Problem is, tongue tie can affect more than just nursing. This is where my story comes in. Clara nursed great. I knew she was tongue tied since she had been diagnosed at the hospital, but things went great feeding-wise. She gained weight like a champ. She was and is a chubby, big baby, with kissable cheeks and lovely fat rolls on her legs. So obviously she is getting the nutrition she needs. Months 1-4ish were fairly normal as far as babies go. Clara has a very happy disposition, so I didn't really notice that much that she also was fairly gassy as far as babies go. (For those that haven't had kids - gassy means fussy a lot of the time. Trapped gas is painful, and very much so for a baby who is just getting used to their little body and how everything works.) Fast forward to about 4 months old and Clara starts to get fussier. The gas problems become more evident and as she consolidates her sleep patterns it becomes more obvious that gas is making it so she can't sleep at times. Or wakes her up from sleep. She starts to protest sleep when she is gassy. This is most of the day and several times at night. Clara also starts to be clingy and only wants to be with mom because most of the time, she feels pretty miserable. All these observations have been made in retrospect because sometimes when you are in the thick of things, its hard to figure out what is going on. I tried every baby gas relief product out there, but nothing worked. By six months Clara was waking up at least once a night, often twice, screaming in pain for an hour or so and naps were 30 minute cat naps when she got so exhausted during the day that she couldn't keep her eyes open anymore. She wanted to be held most of the day and seemed scared of going to other people.

It was when we tried to start solids that I started to suspect that tongue tie might be causing some of these problems. I knew my first daughter had been unusually easy to spoon feed, so I thought the fact that Clara seemed to drool food all over her face and couldn't swallow food down was just normal baby behavior. Then I started watching her try to eat more closely and realized that she couldn't physically swallow the baby food. Her tongue couldn't touch the roof of her mouth so to get any food down she would slurp it. This also introduced more air into her system, which meant more gas. And more pain and fussiness. I stopped the solids, toughed it out with a baby that was now waking up to eat at night as well as waking up with gas pains.

Out of desperation, I decided to look up tongue tie to see if it could be affecting Clara's eating and it was like a light went on. For one, I found out that it can affect more than just the ability of a baby to latch and get milk. It can affect how they swallow and a lot of times, a tied baby will swallow more air when they are nursing. Swallowed air = more gassy. I think for Clara this showed up more when she was older because she was eating faster.

Fast forward to Clara's 6 month check up. Thank goodness for good pediatricians. For one, my pediatrician listens to me. At that point I was tired beyond tired and utterly overwhelmed. Earlier that week I had a meltdown on the phone just trying to have a normal conversation with someone from church. I went through our problems with him and he listened. I laid out why I thought it might be related to tongue tie. He listened. Now, let me say that my pediatrician in general is the type that wants to leave things alone. He would rather not revise (clip) a tie tongue unless necessary. But he listened to me and when I said I wanted it done, he agreed to do it. I'm grateful that he didn't get on a high horse on principal and tell me I was imagining things.

Within two weeks, Clara was a different baby. Within a few days she figured out how to use her newly freed tongue to swallow baby food. She loves, loves, loves eating solid food. It's like she can't imagine where this wonderful stuff has been all her life. (Yep, she probably inherited that from me as well.) She stopped getting up at night to eat. The gas pains also gradually went away. We started probiotics under the advice of our pediatrician, and that helped, and as she learned to use her tongue better she stopped swallowing as much air while she was nursing. She stopped getting up at night with gas pains, and let me tell you, sleeping through the night feels. so. good. She also started taking naps during the day, real 1-2 hour naps and not the sad 30 minute cat naps she took when she wasn't feeling well. She's no longer super clingy and lets other people hold her and play with her. She is happy beyond happy and smiles at everyone around her. In fact, I just noticed the other day that she has her first tooth. I had no idea she was even teething. She wasn't fussy and never even woke up at night. It's like life is amazing without gas pain, and I have to agree with her.

5. I'm in favor of getting tongue ties revised. This is probably no surprise after reading the experience I had with Clara. It made a world of difference for us. For the record for those of you who are thinking it is a little barbaric, revising a tongue tie means cutting the membrane under the tongue. Usually there are very few nerves or veins so it isn't that painful for the baby or even that traumatic. Clara cried as much getting her shots as she did after her revision, which was about three minutes. She smiled at the nurse on our way out. Tongue tie revision is not cutting a tongue. It's freeing an overly restricted tongue so it can work like it is supposed to. If you are a mom who thinks their baby has a tongue tie, get it checked out! And if your doctor doesn't listen to you, find someone who will. Pediatric dentists and ENTs can revise tongue ties, too.

If you want to know more about tongue tie, here are some excellent resources:

Diagnosing tongue tie in babies:  http://www.drghaheri.com/blog/2014/2/15/how-to-examine-a-baby-for-tongue-tie-or-lip-tie

General advice from moms who have been there, seen everything, as well as a list of preferred providers that are experienced in diagnosing and revising tongue tie: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tonguetiebabies/ (Closed group, just ask to join.)

So that's it for my tongue tie post. I'll be back tomorrow with a regular food post. Sorry for such a long post on a non-food subject, but I'm hoping someone can benefit from this information and my experiences. And I hope you all can forgive me for such a long break from posting. We were in survival mode for quite a while so blogging was put on the back burner.

4 Click For Comments:

Welcome back, Nicole! So sorry to hear you've been going through this, but glad to hear things are getting better for Clara and you.
Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground

Welcome back Nicole! I totally understand the break thing from blogging. I think anyone who blogs understands that. Sorry you had to go through all this with your kids...but they sure are beautiful!!!

So happy for Clara now! And, by the way, I'd take Nicole and Marla in my family any day over Giselle!:)

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