The Texture Of Things

Tongue Tied

January 4th, 2011

I have a lot of ground to cover in order to get caught up after all of this silence. Forgive me if I rush the stories.

When the tot was born, she was in the NICU for 12 days. During that time, I was not permitted to nurse her, but was instead told to pump my milk and bottle feed her until such time as she could be transferred to breastfeeding.

When she came home, we tried, but the short of it is that it didn’t work and the help I sought was inadequate. So, I pumped for a year, and the time and energy burden combined with everything else that is rolled up in the raising of a child for the first year of life after a traumatic start nearly made me crazy. (HG would argue that it did, in fact, make me crazy. I’m probably not going to argue with him.)

When I got pregnant with Tater, I was determined (DETERMINED!) to nurse the baby. In my head, it sounded something like, “As Gawd as mah witness, I will nurse this babay!” Or, “I WILL nurse him, and if it doesn’t work, I will get help, and if that help doesn’t fix it, I will keep finding new people to help me until it works. I will NOT stop asking for help!”

To my great relief, when he came out, he nursed — he actually nursed! I was ecstatic! But, he did damage to me on his very first nursing, and that damage only got worse, so I called for help. After just a week, I was in so much pain that I knew without help, I wouldn’t be able to keep nursing him.

I knew that the “Lactation Consultant” I had seen with the tot had not been equipped to deal with challenging cases. I hadn’t known then, but I knew in hindsight, and I had researched the credentials Lactation Consultants can get. I wanted an IBCLC. No substitutions would be accepted. I called someone from my La Leche League group and got several names of IBCLCs. I called them all, and I hired the first one who called me back.

B is an amazing LC, and I credit her with so many wonderful changes that we went through in this family. It began with her visit, when she took one look at the damage Tater was doing to my breasts and said, “He’s tongue-tied. It’s easy to fix.”


Basically, tongue-tie is when the tissue under your tongue is too short or too close to the front of the mouth. It keeps the person from raising their tongue up to the roof of their mouth or sticking it out very far. For Tater, it meant that he couldn’t latch on properly, and poor latch is baaaaaad for a nursing mama.

After B and I talked about Tater for a bit and she looked in his mouth, she gently asked if it would be okay if she looked in the tot’s mouth — just out of curiosity, because tongue-tie runs in families.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you do not see where this is going, you need to go back to the beginning and start again.

The tot was tongue-tied.

Holy Answer to Everything.

To fix a tongue tie in an infant, you go to an ENT, who checks the baby over and then snips the tissue (frenulum). It bled less than a drop, and Tater cried less than 10 seconds. It took about a week to ten days for him to get organized as a nurser, but after he did, he nursed like a champ until he self-weaned at 16 months.

To fix a tongue tie in an adult, you follow the same procedure, minus the re-learning how to nurse. Probably less crying, too. But to fix it in a child between 2 and 10 involves general anasthesia because they cannot be relied upon to hold still for the snip.

I don’t recall it being a hard decision to make. If I recall correctly, HG and I were on the same page — that the tot needed to have it done, though the idea of surgery was not exciting to me. So, when Tater was about ten days old, he had his done, and about 4 months later, the tot had hers done.

And that is the end of this chapter.


  1. liz says

    That. is. awesome.

    January 4th, 2011 | #

  2. esperanza says

    Oh, that brings back NICU memories. We have quite the opposite of a tongue-tie, but there were lots of other issues that led me to pump and bottle feed. I was similarly determined that Mini would breastfeed. She did right away, and I was ecstatic as well.

    January 4th, 2011 | #

  3. esperanza says

    Oh, and I meant to say that I found the quality of LC’s varied greatly. One would tell me one thing, the next would tell me the opposite. Frustrating! They were all certified, too. And the exclusive pumping questions totally flummoxed them.

    January 4th, 2011 | #

  4. admin says

    Yeah, I think one of the problems with the variety of training that LCs can get complicates it, too. When I talked to my pediatrician, he said, “Oh, we have an LC you can see.” So, I did. When the tot latched on, tried to draw three times, then fell off, she was completely stumped. Instead of supporting me and trying to find me some answers or *anything*, she just asked me how pumping was going, and when I said it was going well (I was a champion pumper, lots of supply, etc.), she said, “Well, if pumping is going well, I’d just keep doing that!” Um, didn’t I just say I wanted to transition? Because I was such a n00b, I took her dismissal as gospel and gave up trying to breastfeed. That story still makes me sad. *sigh*

    January 7th, 2011 | #

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