Pen Pal: Tongue Tie - It’s Not Your Fault

Pen Pal: Tongue Tie - It’s Not Your Fault

One life changing event at a time is usual enough for most mamas, but for Caroline, she liked to juggle a few. Not only did she manage to feed a new born mini with a tongue tie, she managed to move house, move countries, move continents. She tells her remarkable tale of tackling tongue tie as a globe trotter. 

‘I think your son has a posterior tongue tie”, she said. ‘That’s why he can’t breastfeed. It’s not your fault’.

I cried tears of relief as the lactation consultant explained I was doing everything right, but the tongue tie was the reason my son couldn't feed.

Breastfeeding had never been easy for us. But I had come a long way from the tiny newborn I’d brought home from the hospital, who had fed enthusiastically, bounding up the centiles on the growth chart.

My son, now 10 weeks old, was refusing the breast altogether. I’d begun to have an inkling a few weeks earlier something wasn’t right. He fed constantly initially, this settled into a routine of every 90 minutes, day and night. I was expressing milk which we fed back to him via a bottle; using formula to bridge the gap between my supply and his appetite.

Whilst feeding, I had noticed a clicking noise. In addition, during feeds he would become windy and distressed. He wailed like a banshee, arching his back and pushing the breast away, sobbing until he passed out. I was certain he was hungry; why wouldn't he feed? My husband and I didn’t know where to turn for support, eventually leading to hiring a lactation consultant.

The tongue tie diagnosis came five days before we were due to migrate to Singapore. The race to find a practitioner to perform a division began. Two days before we flew, I found myself driving several hours with a distressed, hungry 10 week old baby to a clinic where a posterior tongue tie was confirmed and divided. I drove home filled with relief.

My son re-latched the following day, but our success was short lived, and within a few days he was largely refusing the breast again. By now we were in Singapore, desperately busy trying to set up our lives. Breastfeeding was pushed to the back burner and expressing became routine.

A few weeks later, I felt ready to try again. I’d been directed to a breastfeeding support group, by a mummy friend and in turn the group referred me to the in-house lactation consultant.

‘I think your son might have a lip tie, and I don’t think the posterior tongue tie was fully divided’, she said. ‘That’s why he can’t breastfeed. It’s not your fault’.

I left with expensive herbal supplements to increase my supply, a strict expressing schedule, the loan of a double pump, the contact details of an osteopath and a referral to a dentist for division.

The dental clinic was incredible; a team devoted to tongue tie with passion for their work. They examined my son, and noted a significant posterior tongue tie with inadequate division. He performed a laser division. During this, another member of staff explained the clinic’s detailed aftercare, including base of tongue stretching every four hours.

My son re-latched almost immediately post procedure. The osteopath taught me how to relax my son’s neck muscles, improving movement and freeing him up for the newly acquired breastfeeding ability. With some further lactation support we were able to return to breastfeeding, albeit in combination with formula. He is now six months old and breastfeeds three times per day; a huge achievement after seven weeks of total breast refusal.

All of our treatment for tongue tie both in the UK and Singapore was done privately. In the UK the support is there but I found it incredibly difficult to know where to turn. In Singapore, breastfeeding is much more prevalent, as is the knowledge of infant feeding difficulties. Virtually all new mothers here pass through the doors of the breastfeeding support centre; they’re offered antenatal classes, well baby clinics, yoga and a number of baby classes. A high standard of specialist breastfeeding support can be accessed quickly. I plan to have my next child here in Singapore; and without a doubt I will be re-enlisting our lactation consultant! 

Thank you Caroline for sharing this with us. Once all our tongue tie tales are told, we will collate the tips for teats and tits alike. In the meantime if you have any words of wisdom on the tip of your tongue, then we would love to hear Your Voice.

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