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?