Like most pregnant women, there are hundreds of things you’ll find to worry about; such as labor, how your life will change, or the possibility of your baby getting sick. Some parents end up having difficulties with breastfeeding but most don’t consider that tongue tie could be an issue. If you’re concerned about tongue tie, here’s a blog with some stories from real life moms who experienced tongue tie with their newborn.
“…My baby is 6 months old. I was told she had a tie very soon after birth as she didn’t want to feed, which was then checked by the ‘expert’ on the ward’…who said no tie was present. After weeks of pain and strange clicking noises, the doulas came out and confirmed a tie. [She] said there was one but they may well not do anything about it and I would really have to fight my cause at the hospital but she would get us an appointment. The appointment happened – the consultant took one look and said ‘oh yes I can see a tie’, and snipped it.
When I was told they may not do anything I felt really deflated to be honest. I had gone from struggling to continue with feeding and thinking I was going to have to give it up when I really wanted to do this and it was the only thing I had left that I felt I had control of if that makes sense after going through the worst possible version of my birth plan.
After they just snipped it there and then it was such a relief. We went back to the car, I fed her, she latched on and the pain was gone plus the clicking noise disappeared as she got the hang of it again.”
Here is a mother whose breastfeeding relationship was entirely broken by an undiagnosed tongue-tie. Despite support to fine tune her baby’s latch, her pain continued. In a culture plagued by the myth that ‘breastfeeding hurts’, it seems that no-one took her on-going agony as a sign of anything untoward. Her feelings of depression impeded bonding with her baby and the knock on effect on her partner and wider family demonstrate the implications that breastfeeding problems can have.
“My son was diagnosed with a tongue tie at 4 months old. From the word go breastfeeding him had been agonisingly painful throughout every single feed and my nipples were in shreds from the first day. We had been seen by three midwives, our regular health visitor, and an NCT breastfeeding counsellor, none of whom had spotted the tie (in fact I don’t think anyone had looked in his mouth). In hindsight it was blatantly obvious – the classic heart shaped tongue which he never lifted – but as a first time mum I naively thought that was how a newborn baby’s tongue looked. He also used to fall asleep and slip off the breast, he would fight and fight when I attempted to latch him on, it was really really difficult.
Unfortunately by the time the tongue tie was spotted we were already well down the road of mixed feeding. From the second week I had begun to express milk and was mostly bottle feeding him this and formula, with some breastfeeding when I could stand it. Ironically breastfeeding was becoming easier by the four month mark but of course my milk supply was shot to pieces as I had so little useful support. We gave up breastfeeding shortly afterwards when he went on nursing strike during a cold.
The emotional impact of this was huge. Finding out there was a tongue tie was at once a relief and also a huge frustration. I was told, however, that the policy in the area was not to snip tongue ties so I wonder if it would have been even worse had I known. More important, I would say, was the emotional impact of finding breastfeeding so painful and yet having everyone insist that they could see nothing wrong. I felt so guilty for being unable to do what nature intended, I would be in tears whenever my son wanted feeding because I dreaded it so much and I am sure I developed postnatal depression as a result (having been diagnosed with this after my daughter’s birth, I recognised the feelings). It most definitely affected my ability to bond with my son in the early months, which is something I bitterly regret to this day.”
This story thankfully has a happy ending, showing that a helpful companion can make all the difference. Doulas are lay companions, or ‘peer’ supporters, not lactation specialists (although many are also breastfeeding counsellors) so it is not within their boundaries to diagnose anything or advise any particular course of action. This doula provided emotional, practical and informational support.
Here is an assertive mother who experienced what many believe should be routine – the tongue-tie spotted at birth, information provided on the possible implications and options for treatment or ‘watch and wait’ and counselling through the informed decision-making process.
“My son’s tongue tie was picked up the day he was born by a midwife on the high dependency unit…but then I had conflicting information from several other midwives and doctors…I knew it needed to be cut, he couldn’t protrude his tongue at all and within a day my nipples were sore. As a second time breastfeeder and being of a medical nature (I’m a vet) I was confident enough to push and push for it to be snipped and got an appointment with the only person in the hospital qualified to snip it (!) on day 3. I chatted to another mum in hospital…who had been told her baby needed an “operation” to correct his tongue-tie and was terrified, she was already at the point of giving up breastfeeding because she was sore and was not prepared to put her baby through an operation in order to rectify the situation.
It can be so simply sorted, it should be something that is checked for in the new baby checks and sorted immediately.”
What Treatments Are Available?
While tongue tie is rarely serious, there are treatment options available for babies who experience more severe symptoms because of it. The most common procedure is a quick and simple day surgery procedure which requires no anaesthetic and should correct the issue immediately. As ever, it’s best to talk through any concerns you may have with your doctor or another healthcare practitioner, as they’ll be able to guide you in your decision-making process.