Tongue and Lip Tie Release: Our Experience
***This is the follow up to the first blog post. You can read Part 1 here***
The day that I first discovered Elisabeth had an upper lip tie I felt this magical glimmer of hope that I had found the reason why she was such a slow weight gainer. Despite feeding regularly, she was still quite small and babies younger than her always looked way bigger than her. I knew releasing tongue and lip ties could allow for the baby to latch more effectively and transfer more milk. I had heard about babies who literally gained a bunch of weight within the first week after their tongue tie was released. I felt like, if this happened for us it would make getting the tie released a total success.
From my professional life, I knew that some babies who were found to have lip and tongue ties can also have issues with properly latching on and effectively transferring milk. Of course I turned to my LC community and my breastfeeding buddies to see what they had to say about tongue and lip ties. The overall verdict was quite mixed with lots of success stories and some stories where no big change was made. I decided to go with my mother’s intuition and booked a consult with the only person who does laser frenectomy. Luckily, this dentist was just a bridge away from us but I’ve had heard of parents driving long car rides or even taking plane rides to go and see this dentist. I was impressed that this dentist was very knowledgable and supportive about breastfeeding and latching.
When we took Elisabeth to see the dentist we did a consult first to see if she even met the criteria for continuing on with the procedure. Basically, just because your baby has a tongue or lip tie does not mean they need to have their tie released. Some babies with tongue and lip ties do just fine gaining weight and the mother’s never complain of pain with feeding.
Here are some of the questions that I was asked by the dentist prior to going ahead with Elisabeth’s lip and posterior tongue tie release:
–How has her weight gain been since birth? Slow. Slow. Slow. My other babies gained quickly after birth but each ounce has been a slow victory for this baby. It also took her longer to regain her birthweight.
–Does she make any clicking sounds when nursing? Yes!! My other 2 never did this but she is SO noisy! She clicks so loudly, even on a bottle. She leaks milk out of the corners of her mouth during nursing.
–Can she suck a soother? No! I can’t get one to stay in her mouth. A few sucks and it falls out and she cries cause she does want it.
–Do you have any pain with breastfeeding? I do and I feel like I’m an experienced breastfeeder and this is the first baby I’ve had pain with during feeding. It always looks like a good latch and I can hear her transferring milk but it hurts.
Once we went through these questions the dentist did confirm that Elisabeth had an upper lip tie and posterior tongue tie too. I had only diagnosed the upper lip tie but often if there is an upper lip tie there is also a posterior tongue tie.
The dentist was supportive of having me learn about the procedure and I stayed in the room with the baby while he explained everything that he was doing. She was quickly swaddled and wore some fancy eye goggles and they put her on the big dental chair and the assistant gently held her there as the dentist did his work. She did cry but I think it was more the holding her down and opening up her mouth that upset her more than the laser. The actual time of the laser was very fast and it felt like seconds.
As soon as it was done I nursed the baby right away, which felt perfect for many reasons. For comforting her and for the breastmilk swishing around those open wounds. We were given some post procedure information and lots of support for the wound care and the mouth physio. The hardest part to all of this was actually the post wound rubbing that has to be done to keep the tie from growing back. Having to rub it 5-8+ times a day was really hard but it is vital to do this wound rubbing so that the tie does not grow back. After the first week she did not cry when I rubbed her wounds and by week 3 she didn’t even seem to notice at all.
The first breastfeeding session at home after the procedure was…PAIN FREE!! She still clicked and made a bunch of noise but there was no pain. Since she hadn’t been using her tongue effectively we still needed to do mouth physio to teach her tongue learn how to properly move. It was quite simple to do and I found this video by a IBCLC quite helpful.
It’s been a solid 6 weeks since the baby had her procedure done and the wounds are totally healed and the ties did not regrow. Here is where we are at:
-Elisabeth did not get huge and chunky or gain a terrific amount of weight. She continued on her slow weight gain.
-There is absolutely no pain with nursing at all. Yeah!
-She can suck on a soother and loves to have one for nap times and I am happy about this part. I noticed a difference in her suck strength with doing the mouth exercises for the 3 weeks following.
-She does not make clicking noises anymore! She does not dribble milk like she used to and I can see her lips flanged out more now.
My final thought:
I think it’s great idea to identify tongue and lip ties in all infants. However, not all infants with a tongue or lip tie will need a tie release. Even though my biggest hope was that Elisabeth would gain a lot of weight from having this done, I still feel like we did come out ahead.
I do wonder what would have happened if I had discovered her lip and tongue tie earlier than the 2.5 months that she was. Would releasing it a lot earlier have helped my milk supply and allow her to gain more weight? I have to wonder that by not doing the release till she was 2.5 months old may have possibly decreased my milk supply due to an ineffective latch and milk transfer. That is my food for thought.
If you need more information about making the decision to have your baby’s tongue or lip tie released I would encourage you to see a IBCLC (gold standard lactation consultant). Not all LC’s have training about tongue and lip ties but there are many that do. Here are a few more websites that might help you identify if your baby does have a tie.