It’s time to get real people! Everything on this blog is from my own personal experiences and opinions but today I am going to discuss infant tongue ties. Unfortunately, my son was tongue-tied but we did not find that out until after the infant phase. My goal is to help you address the problem ASAP! So today isn’t really about teething, but it is about your little one’s mouth. Onwards!!
My first was/is the devil. I love him more than words and could not imagine life without him, but in all honesty he was the most difficult baby and is becoming a very difficult child. From birth, he screamed louder than most children and pretty constantly. He had trouble nursing, which led to my milk not “coming in” until he was about a month old. This meant very hungry nights and extended periods of nursing. I was nursing him AROUND THE CLOCK. He breastfed for an hour, took an hour break and then fed for an hour.. 24 hours a day, for 6 months. If he wasn’t eating, he was a gassy ball of anger. He did have his happy moments but you could tell that he was colicky and just not comfortable often.
Then we started solids. I thought, “YAY, maybe he’ll sleep now with a full belly”. Wrong. So very wrong. He struggled to eat as well, never really getting the hang of purees and unable to handle real food that did not dissolve in the mouth (so basically only teething crackers and Gerber puffs). By this point we had started going to play dates pretty regularly to socialize. It was at a play date, when my son was 8 months old, that I realized other babies his age were sticking out their tongues playfully, licking food to taste it before eating, and I had NEVER seen my boy do that. It was then that it all kind of clicked: my milk came in late, he can’t eat, he’s gassy… OMG HE HAS A TONGUE TIE!!! So sure as can be, the lactation consultant confirmed.
We booked an appointment as quickly as I could get one with a pediatric dentist who told us that he had both a tongue and lip tie. The tongue tie was severe enough that it was preventing my son from touching his tongue to the roof of your mouth. HOW DO YOU EAT FOOD WITHOUT TOUCHING YOUR TONGUE TO THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH??? (Sorry for all the caps, clearly this is a passionate topic for me). Anyway, long story not at all shortened, we got both the tongue and lip tie laser cut and his mouth is fully functioning. This was a nightmare for me and the mom guilt travels with me every day “How could I not realize my son had issues for 9 months?” “How much pain and discomfort was he in?”, the questions go on and on. I am here to help this NOT happen to you!
What Do I Look For?
There are a couple of key things to look for at birth that can really help. I would like to note here that relying on your pediatrician to catch a tongue tie is the dumbest thing you can do. They are not specifically trained to look for it or identify it.
- The first thing to keep an eye out for is any feeding issues. This is usually a very easily identified issue when breastfeeding because infants who are tongue-tied have a difficulty latching properly, but may still do fine with a bottle. Any extreme pain, cracking/bleeding nipples, very gassy baby, milk leaking out of baby’s mouth while nursing, baby not gaining weight, popping on and off the boob frequently are all signs of a problem. Your problem may not be a tongue tie but seeking out help from a lactation consultant or pediatrician who is comfortable diagnosing tongue ties is recommended.
- Next look for developmental issues. This is when I noticed my son’s tongue tie. Babies should be exploring things with their mouth by 2-4 months (depending how much your baby likes things in their mouths), so that tongue should be out. Lots of licking, feeling their gums, licking their lips, even mimicking you sticking your tongue out. Again, just because your babe doesn’t have a super active tongue does not mean there is a tongue tie but it raises some red flags so consider getting him checked.
- Lastly, and if you get to this point I am so sorry because the older your baby gets the harder the procedure is, difficulty eating solids and speaking. Once baby has started on solids and you have gotten them used to solids (which can take a month or two) there should not be a constant struggle. If they are not swallowing food effectively something is clearly wrong. Same goes for speaking. We all know that words come out a little silly in the beginning but after about 2 if your little one is still having trouble with the basic “mama” or “dada” there could be a tongue tie in the way.
Before moving on I would like to once again reiterate that the symptoms to look for I just listed CAN be signs of a tongue tie, but could also mean a lot of things. If your kid is proper and keeps her tongue in her mouth don’t freak out, every baby is different. But like I said above, if your babe is showing any of these symptoms, maybe just get them checked out to be safe.
What Should I Do?
If you are breastfeeding start with a lactation consultant! They are an amazing resource, plus they are trained specifically on tongue ties. If bottle feeding or you don’t have a lactation consultant near you, start with a pediatrician. They aren’t necessarily trained, but they can rule out other things that could be causing similar problems (like a lazy baby, just kidding). Ultimately, if your infant is tongue-tied you will need to go to a pediatric dentist. You CAN go to an ENT, but if your little one also has a lip tie that needs fixing, the ENT will not be able to help with that. In addition, most ENTs still clip the tie, while pediatric dentists will use a laser which cauterizes as it cuts so healing time is much shorter!
As always, do your research. Make sure you are seeing a specialist you trust and that their recommendations make sense to you.
Moral of the story: The mom gut is a strong force to be reckoned with. Had I not picked up on a silly thing like sticking your tongue out, my son would still be struggling. Always follow the mom gut!