Tongue tie and hope

After we got home I struggled on, complaining, for a few days. My partner was sympathetic & supportive, but I thought something must be wrong, I didn’t know why, and I think he initially thought maybe I was making excuses. He convinced me to call my sister-in-law which I was too embarrassed to do to begin with, but made a huge difference. We wondered if the problem could be a tongue tie – her baby had it too. Also she told me breastfeeding can be agony to begin with, but it gets better – music to my ears, as I thought I was a total failure.   She lives in Ireland and had had a dreadful time getting her baby diagnosed with tongue tie. Her nipples were mangled but no one knew why, she went to the doctor but was told she just must have a poor latch. After her & her husband did some serious Googling they discovered tongue tie – where the frenulum, the small piece of skin that tethers your tongue to the base of your mouth, is too tight. It’s not always a problem but it can limit the amount baby can stick their tongue out, and therefore how effectively they can feed. It’s not really known if it affects speech in later life but it’s a painless quick snip so in the UK it’s straightforward. In Ireland no one knew what it was, and the poor family had to drive halfway across the country to see a specialist, after enduring 8 weeks of pain. A ridiculous ordeal, and not one I think I could have got through personally. On baby’s day 3, when the midwife came we raised the query of tongue tie, and she said she’d already spotted the possibility. We were booked in to see the midwife who specialised in breastfeeding at the hospital the next day. I had a desperate & painful night, part using nipple shields in an attempt to let my horrifically cracked, bloody & agonising nipples recover, but was worried she wasn’t getting enough milk & it was making her cough, tried with & without.We got baby back to hospital, screaming in her car seat & me hobbling with pain from stitches from my episiotomy. The specialist breastfeeding midwife was called Ingrid & was charming – articulate, intelligent, knowledge & not patronising. She said yes, baby has a posterior tongue tie – altho she can stich know her tongue out below her bottom lip (which not all tongue tied babies can) it’s clearly making a difference to breastfeeding & as we don’t know if it will make a difference to baby’s speech development, it’s recommended that it’s cut. She explained thoroughly what she was going to do – swaddle baby to keep her arms from flailing around, then use sharp, round-nosed scissors to snip the tie. There may or may not be any bleeding, there won’t be any pain (a grown woman investigating this had her own tie cut with no anaesthetic, and stated it didn’t hurt) and maybe some blood. It would heal quickly, as mouth injuries do, and feeding her immediately after would help. Baby wasn’t happy about the procedure, understandably. Her mouth seemed to bleed quite a bit, and when I tried to feed her using the cradle hold (the only position I’d tried so far), I was in agony.

Ingrid instead got me up on the bed in the ‘laid back’ position – reclining comfortably – then put baby on me and let her find her own way to my breast.  This is also known as ‘biological nurturing’. It’s quite amazing, it’s the way new mothers are encouraged to feed their newborns immediately after they’re born – it’s amazing that something so tiny has this built-in reflex to find mother’s breast. Well, like all mammals I suppose. It was founded by a British midwife called Suzanne Colson in 2008 whilst researching for her PhD. She concluded that there are 20 inborn neonatal reflexes that help babies to breastfeed, and concluded that human babies feed best on their stomachs. It’s great for calming baby, regulating their breathing & heart rate, and for getting a good deep latch. Plus Ingrid could tell from baby’s loud slurping noises that I had a very fast flow, and baby feeding against gravity helps with that. It’s a fairly newly recommended position but I’ve since found it invaluable. I found it a great deal more comfortable, and it really helped with my painful let down reflex. I nearly cried at the midwife. Baby seemed very happy too – it was a revelation! Anyone else had a baby with tongue tie? What was your experience? And how did you find breastfeeding afterwards?

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4 thoughts on “Tongue tie and hope

  1. My darling fairy had an 80% tongue tie. It was cut on day ten, and went from agony to amazing. We are still happily feeding at 8 months. I’m hooked. It’s a drug to me! Xx

      • You too – yup, excruciating, you managed it for longer than I had to as well! I think it took her a little while to relearn latching on tho, hence the lasting damage. It’s very confusing before tongue tie us diagnosed & everyone says your latch is great but it’s still incredibly painful…!

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