Before I begin, let me preface by saying that every single story regarding this is completely unique. And as always, please read my disclaimer.
As our story goes, in our early stages of breast feeding something just wasn’t right. As we started to try and get the hang of things I realized she was not able to empty my breast. She was gaining fine and her latch seemed fine, and continued to improve as her mouth grew, but as it turned out, she had a lip and tongue tie, class 2.5. If caught early, this can be a little bit of a setback, but nothing you and your little can’t handle.
Some info for you:
Tongue Tie Fact Sheet
Tongue/Lip Tie Symptoms
Breastfeeding Problems (what it can look like)
Our Story Continues
Every baby is different but as our story goes, she was gaining weight fine and the thought of getting her revised scared the shit out of me. So naturally after setting an appointment to have it checked out, I canceled it out of fear. I had chronic clogged milk ducts and had mastitis twice as a result. In addition, I had over supply and overactive let down.
Because of her latch being shallow her nursing was noisy and she clicked while eating. With each click, unbeknownst to me, she was swallowing air, and this caused her to have gas, or commonly known as colic in her early weeks. We would bicycle her legs and do everything we could to make her comfortable.
Lip/Tongue Ties are just emerging in the medical field and because of this, one of the many battles going on right now between the breastfeeding community and the medical field is weather or not ties are worth treating or even exist at all.
Madison’s tongue tie was very hard to see and diagnose, and her primary doctor said she was fine. She said that breastfeeding should hurt in the early days, so we went on our way. But after another feeding made we want to jump through the roof and the next I was struggling to keep her awake and the next bout of Mastitis had caused me to be in the fetal position at the bottom of my shower in tears, I decided that this couldn’t be it. Something wasn’t right and I needed to seek more help.
Second Opinions & Support
I ditched the traditional medicine route and opted to go further and deeper into the breastfeeding community to find the help we truly needed. I met with a lactation consultant that confirmed my suspicion of ties and because I was still scared out of my mind, I decided to get the opinion from another. So after two independent lactation consultants and a few visits to my local breastfeeding support group that lead me to have valuable discussions with moms that had “been there”, and after many tears and discussions with my ever-supportive husband with his unfailing attitude of “whatever you need; whatever you think, I’m here”, I felt confident enough to finally go through with setting, and keeping my appointment with Dr. Kotlow.
Finally a Diagnoses
Dr. Lawrence A. Kotlow, DDS, PC in Albany, NY is a specialist dentist who is supportive and passionate about breastfeeding. People come from all over the country to see him and I’m so thankful he was in my back yard (so to speak). There are some that cut the ties, but Dr. Kotlow and the best way to do it is by laser. So that’s what we did.
It sounds awful, but to be honest it is not bad at all. It’s much less invasive than a circumcision and if I had another child I would do it again in a heartbeat. The pain they feel is equivalent to a burn you get from eating a hot piece of pizza and burn the top of your mouth, and the risk of infection is nonexistent. And most importantly, it saved our nursing relationship.
Our Fate if not Revised
If we had decided to not revise her ties, there are a whole host of problems that could have made themselves known as she grew, like speech problems, trouble eating solids, migraines as an adult, TMJ, the list goes on, but for me as the nursing mother I would have risked the 4-month supply drop. At month four, your body will regulate and engorgement will be a thing of the past. Your breasts will feel less full and be exactly what your baby needs. But without a revision, in many cases, that regulation could mean a plummet in supply and an end to your journey. Your body receives the message to make more milk every time your breast is emptied completely. In the first four months, your body is getting together all your “orders” and keeping track so to speak. If your body is not feeling an empty breast, it will get the message that all that milk being produced is not needed, so… it stops.
This happens to many women with babies that have undiagnosed lip/tongue ties because they just don’t know it exists, or their doctor says nothing is wrong. They struggle through and by the time their body begins to regulate, they experience the dreaded plummet in supply.
This is why I share this part of my story. Not to scare you, just to let you know that it exists. And if it happens, you will make it through to the other side and be on your way to a longstanding, successful, story line.
Diagnosis and Revision Appointment
So as you guessed it, my husband and I took Maddy to Dr. Kotlow and he revised Madison that day. Dr. Kotlow is very fast and knows his stuff. We sat down and I discussed the issues I was having. He then had me hold Maddy on my lap with her head in my hands laying down. Dr. Kotlow then sat across from me and placed her head in his hands so she was upside down. With his gloves on he took his fingers and placed them in her mouth on each side and glided them up along her top lip, lifting it up toward her nose in the process. He showed me the piece of skin that was constricting her lip to flange while nursing. Confirmed lip tie.
He then placed he fingers under her tongue and pressed down toward the bottom of her mouth toward her throat. He showed me her piece of skin that was almost buried at first glance that was constricting the movement of her tongue. Confirmed tongue tie.
He diagnosed her and then asked us to watch a short video about what that meant and it also had a video of the revision he’d like to perform.
After the video he came back and I said yes. Without hesitation he took Maddy into his office to perform the procedure. She was back within 5 minutes time with the laser revision taking all of 3 minutes.
The moment after the revision he handed Madison to me and asked me to nurse her. She was distraught so the breast (the breast that fixes all) was exactly what she needed. I will never forget that latch. For the first time in 11 weeks, on December 15th, 2016, she latched and I felt what a true suck was supposed to feel like. She was sucking before, but remember those hour long nursing sessions? Because her latch was weak, she would fall asleep at the breast and take longer to get what she needed. She was still gaining because I let her do what she needed to do to get her milk, even if it meant nursing for an hour straight. Well this was the first time I could feel milk coming out of all corners of my breast.
Don’t let anyone tell you, your baby is a “lazy” nurser because they fall asleep while nursing as you sit there unemptied from your nursing session with a sleeping babe. Seek help and get to the root of the problem. If they have a lip/tongue tie, they fall asleep because they can’t physically do it. Their muscles are held back, and the anatomy of their mouth will not allow them to get a good latch and therefore a good, efficient suck.
Once Madison’s ties were fixed it was pretty much smooth sailing from there. No more clogged ducts for me, her congestion pretty much went away, and so did her gass and colic.
We began the work of practicing her new latch which was now more powerful and deeper. No clicking and she became more efficient. Hour nursing sessions were a thing of the past.
Stretches and Post Revision Care
As for the lip tie & tongue tie revision stretches, yes, they are not fun and they do hurt. For Maddy, at 11wks old, we had a rough few days and even a quick nursing strike post revision. But by the end of the 1st week, we were getting the hang of it (or well, I was). I learned to get them done as quickly as possible and got better at “putting my game face on” when it came time to do them. You have to put your mamma bear pants on and get done what needs getting done. It also helped immensely that my husband helped with this. He would perform the revision and I’d provide the booby magic. The cry was always there when performing stretches but gradually it became short-lived and she recovered quicker and quicker with nursing afterwards each time, helping this time be even shorter. The first day we did use the recommended dose of Tylenol and a tiny bit of the numbing gel provided by Dr. Kotlow when needed. In looking back, the revisions were short lived. 3xs a day (morning, noon, and night) for 2wks and we were done. I fed her with a cup of expressed breast milk for the short lived nursing strike that lasted only the evening of the revision and I didn’t do stretches that evening since she was in so much pain. The morning after the revision we got busy with stretches and stuck with it until the end, really making sure to get in there good and reopen the wound each time if needed, because the last thing you want is for it to reattach and have to go through it all over again.
Think Your Little One Has Ties? Now What?
If you suspect your little one has ties, know that every experience will be different, so get in touch with a lactation consultant, go to a breastfeeding support group and talk to other moms about their experiences, and get yourself to a dentist or ENT to receive the specialized care you need to have this properly diagnosed and taken care of. Work closely with a lactation consultant after getting revised so you and your little can perfect your new latch, and you might even want to consider getting some cranial sacral therapy after the revision to release the muscles that are now available for use for the first time. Ask your doctor performing the revision and your lactation consultant if this is recommended for your little, post revision, and they will usually be able to refer you to a good specialist.
And just remember, You can do it! And it will be so worth it in the end. There are a whole host of problems you will solve for your little that go well beyond nursing and even babyhood. ❤