Breastfeeding a baby with a tongue tie is possible, but it takes special care.
After my third baby was born, he was able to breastfeed within the golden hour. The golden hour is the undisturbed hour after birth where mom and baby are skin to skin, nursing, and taking in the new world. At the very first latch, I knew it wasn’t right. I breastfed two other kids before him. This immediately HURT. It did NOT feel normal. I knew he had to have a tongue tie.
A tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a congenital oral anomaly where a thick membrane ties the tongue down. This greatly limits the movement of the tongue, and this restriction prohibits a baby from using their tongue to breastfeed normally.
Knowingly, when he opened his mouth we all saw his profound tongue tie. It was a very tight tongue tie. He could move his tongue very little. It was immediately noticed and clearly affecting his ability to nurse.
I have dealt with lip ties with my other kids, and I was very familiar with the effects of MTHFR gene mutations on oral development. I was taking a prenatal with folate instead of folic acid to try to avoid this problem. Frustratingly, it was still a huge problem for us.
It’s hard to wrap your brain around. In nature, my baby wouldn’t have survived without being able to breastfeed. It takes a minute for that to sink in. We hold nature to the highest standard of humanity, yet we tend to ignore its patterns of destruction. Thankfully, we have the ability to intervene in that destruction.
Pushing Through the Pain – You Don’t Have To
Nursing a baby with a tight tongue tie was the most painful experience of my life. I laid in bed in severe pain, with bruised breasts and bleeding nipples, for a full five days before we could see any kind of professional to release the tie. The pain of this experience was unfathomable. I was crying and curling my toes every time my baby nursed.
I couldn’t sleep because I was in so much pain. If anything brushed across my breasts it was excruciating. I actually wish someone told me that it was okay to pump and give him a bottle just to get some pain relief. I felt like I was cast off alone to deal with this and had no lactation support other than waiting and hoping that this ENT visit would be the answer. Thankfully, my postpartum doula was highly trained in breastfeeding and her support was lovely.
Doggedly, I pushed through all this pain unnecessarily and it made for a very difficult postpartum experience. I could barely put a shirt on over my breasts for almost 2 weeks.
Releasing the Tongue Tie
Finally, we saw an ENT who clipped the tie with scissors on the 5th day. I feel this was critical to the success of our breastfeeding journey. Day 5 is always the day that I start to have full milk come in, and clipping the tie that day allowed him to get all the milk he needed. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it gave me the relief I needed to continue breastfeeding.
Over the next few weeks, my pain cleared up and breastfeeding was moving along successfully. However, my baby was excessively cranky. He was THE CRANKIEST and wasn’t nursing normally. He was excessively gassy, constantly spitting up volumes of milk, and was mad and uncomfortable all the time. It was horrible, far more than I experienced with my other babies. We went through many of my darkest hours.
Finally, at 6 weeks, we had a home visit with an IBCLC. She suggested that the tie wasn’t clipped fully or reattached. She gave me some great oral exercises to do and recommended we see a doctor for a second revision. The exercises were helpful and I could see him working his oral muscles. She also recommended chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy to support the second revision. These therapies were extremely beneficial and helped his muscle and tissue movement after the tongue tie revision.
Fast forward to 7 months. He’s nursing great but it’s probably not perfect. We did the best we could with limited resources.
What can you do if you think your baby has a tongue tie?
If you think your baby has oral ties, please be sure to reach out to an IBCLC. Don’t be afraid of clipping or revising the ties. It can make such a huge difference in your breastfeeding journey. Also, make sure you follow up with oral exercises, stretches, and therapies such as chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy. There are a wide variety of professional resources to support you.