She Says… Cat Got Your Tongue?

My life recently seems to be one long string of doctor’s appointments. Although I prefer to stay doctor-free, we’re figuring out all kinds of things about Owen’s eating issues and I am so happy to be able to put my finger on what’s causing him (and me) so much distress. Yesterday we met with Nancy, the lactation consultant we’ve been working with via email for the last few weeks since I she taught the Pump Talk class I attended. For the first time in 12 weeks, I finally felt like someone knew what they were talking about! Let me tell you, all lactation consultants (and pediatricians, etc.) are NOT created equal. Nancy is incredible and knew so much more about Owen and I than any other medical professional I have ever seen.

Almost immediately she diagnosed something about Owen that everyone else overlooked. Apparently he has a partial tongue tie. A tongue tie (also known as ‘Ankyloglossia’ or ‘anchored tongue’) is a structural abnormality where the frenulum (the little stringy thing that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is either too short or too tight. In some babies, the frenulum attaches right to the end of the tongue, so they essentially don’t have a tip of the tongue and can’t stick their tongues out beyond their gums. Owen’s is only a partial tongue tie, meaning that he has a short frenulum. Once she pointed it out it seemed to obvious — he even has a little heart shaped tip of the tongue because the frenulum is pulling on the tongue when he extends it. It kind of looks like this.

Apparently this is a fairly common thing in newborns, and doctors often snip the frenulum in the nursery in the hospital in the first few days of life. Perhaps no one noticed Owen’s, or perhaps it wasn’t a big enough deal to snip, I’m not sure. Nancy says that he has enough tongue mobility that it most likely does not warrant snipping at this point, but if it had been done, I probably could have avoided some of our breastfeeding issues! It accounts for a lot of the breast/nipple pain I’ve been experiencing since it can interfere with latching and sucking.

Also, it’s genetic. Nancy looked in my mouth and said I didn’t have it, but I checked out Benjamin’s mouth last night and he has a TOTALLY strange frenulum. In fact, he almost has NO frenulum, so I’m wondering if it was snipped when he was an infant because it was like Owen’s (or worse). Strange! Never noticed that before. If this issue is bad enough it can interfere with other things later in life like speech, swallowing solid foods, tooth/jaw development and french kissing. I’m going to ask our pediatrician to evaluate it at our next appointment and see if Owen should go see a specialist. More doctors!

I’m beginning to realize just how much the deck is stacked against us in terms of breastfeeding. I’m either very strong to have powered through all of these issues, or very stupid. Either way, the light at the end of the tunnel is fast approaching.

Anyone out there ever dealt with a tongue tie?

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14 responses to “She Says… Cat Got Your Tongue?

  1. My brother was tongue-tied and I probably have a little bit of it as well (given that I can’t stick my tongue out far at all). John had his clipped at the dentist when he was three because his seemed to be causing some speech problems. That being said, my mama successfully breastfed him for a year. Can you see about getting it snipped and see if that will help?

  2. Isa had a partial tongue tie and she did get it snipped pretty late, at two months. Things got a little better, but there wasn’t a huge improvement. At the time, I would have tried anything though.

  3. My friend’s daughter had her’s clipped when she was days old. They said she wouldn’t be able to lick an ice cream cone if they hadn’t snipped it. She had it snipped and the baby was fine and breastfeeding not that long later.

  4. Considering that I have to get my husband to come along for moral support with my baby needs her shots, I can’t imagine getting her tongue tie snipped. I think I might cry more than the baby! Although, when he’s a teenager interested in french kissing, he might thank you :)

  5. I have been following your blog for sometime but never had anything to offer until now. One of my twin daughters had the same problem and was not diagnosed until the age of four and had to have surgery through our dentist who found the problem believe me if you get this corrected as soon as possible please do. Caitlyn had speech problems and the surgery was very painful for her. Once the hers was snipped and the stitches healed her speech problem seemed to disappear overnight.

  6. My younger son had a slight tongue tie and I did have some breastfeeding pain and fussiness (which I mentioned in another post, but I totally forgot about the tongue tie until you mentioned it here!). He definitely had some trouble latching, which was frustrating for both of us, but it was pretty short-lived (it got better after a couple of months and he successfully nursed for 15 months). We worked pretty hard on making sure he got a good latch every time and that helped a lot.

    I remember mentioning it to the pediatrician and he said that unless it’s really impossible for him to nurse, then it shouldn’t be necessary to snip it. The tip of the tongue doesn’t stop growing until the child is around 4 years old and by then the frenulum should have stretched a bit to enable normal tongue movement. The ped said if by age 4 I’m still concerned, we could consider doing the snip. But as I said, I had totally forgotten about it (and he’s 19 months now).

    I have had several friends who had their kids’ tongues snipped – it was a 5-minute procedure, and the baby got over it about 5 minutes later. So go with whatever you feel is right for you. Good luck!

  7. You’re a rock star for powering through! I truly believe that nursing is so important that it’s worth it. I’ve been lucky with my little pumpkin since he’s a good feeder and I produce so much milk. I hope that if I ever have problems with subsequent babies that I will be as headstrong as you.

  8. my brother had his snipped as a child.
    I think you are and have been doing very well powering through the breastfeeding issues. I had issues with my first child and only breastfed for 7 weeks before I decided to give it up because I could not be the mama I needed to be and continue to fight the latching on issues and multiple bouts of mastitis. This time around with child #2 has been WAY easier, so I think sometimes it is simply the child…each one is so different. You are doing fabulous so hang in there and it will get easier!!

  9. Bob’s son had that but they didn’t pick up on it until he was already in school. They ended up doing speech therapy, I don’t think they snipped it. Call anytime if you want to ask Bob more questions. I’m glad you are getting answers!

  10. i have a six day old boy with a tight frenulum. fortunately, he hasn’t had many nursing troubles yet. sometimes he has a little trouble latching but he seems to get over it quickly. we took him to his first pediatrician appointment yesterday and the doctor thinks it’s tight enough to go ahead and have snipped. she said that it could lead to other problems like you mentioned and that’s it’s much easier to go ahead and get it done now. sometimes it can stretch out on their own, though.

    i had no idea that a short or tight frenulum was so common. good luck!!

  11. Kate I just read your twitt about exclusively pumping. As crazy as it sounds I exclusively pumped for my second son for 1 year. You can totally accomplish giving Owen breastmilk by exclusively pumping. Good luck, you can do it !!!

  12. I just saw your twitt about pumping as well, I managed to pump exclusively for 4 months. I probably could have gone longer but chose not to in the end. It’s totally do-able though, you’ll be great!!!

  13. I was tongue-tied, but it wasn’t discovered til I was in 5th grade. My orthodontist realized that it was pulling down the gums on the back of my front teeth. Explains why I had speech problems, and why I could never stick my tongue out very far. They went ahead and clipped it for me then. It was incredibly, INCREDIBLY, painful and traumatic. I would STRONGLY recommend fixing it before he can remember!!

  14. I just found your blog! Crazy beautiful story. When I first started reading, I thought you were still pregnant and was like Oh wow this is so cute. Then all of a sudden I realize that you had your baby 9 months ago!! Such a funny thing to stumble onto a blog. Now I’m just looking through it because it’s super adorable and guess what, I’m 23 and I’m tongue tied. have been all my life (obviously) and never got it clipped. My mom said she didn’t think I needed it. Truth be told, I didn’t. I speak fine, it only was embarrassing in middle school when people starting making out (haha) but it hasn’t posed a problem!! Anyway, just wanted to let you know I love the site!

    Jenna

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