I’d finally figured out the cause of my struggle to breastfeed both of my babies and my three year old daughter’s speech challenges, but I didn’t know where to start when it came to getting my children evaluated for lip and tongue ties. So I went where I usually go for advice — Facebook. I joined a local support group for tongue and lip ties. The parents in this group were a wealth of support and knowledge and encouraged me to have my children referred to a “preferred provider” — one who had been vetted by the group and the IBCLCs associated with it.
The first step was bringing them to our highly respected pediatrician, who agreed with my assessment and trusted my intuition (side note: Find a pediatrician you can trust, who trusts you. This relationship is priceless.) and sent out referrals to a pediatric dentist, Dr. David Draper, in Apex (45 minutes from our home). Tricare gave authorization for the kids to be seen, and, with the understanding that if they required any procedures we would pay out of pocket and have to submit for reimbursement from insurance, I made their appointments.
The Evaluation and Frenectomies
We met with Dr. Draper, a pediatric dentist who decided to specialize in tongue ties after watching his own wife struggle with breastfeeding. I was instantly at ease and could tell he knew what we were up against. He quickly pegged me as a mom who had done her homework and was encouraged. He wasted no time and examined both children and requested to address both of their lip and tongue ties on the spot. I could have hugged him.
Madeline was up first. They swabbed the inside of her lip and under her tongue with a numbing gel, which really freaked her out. While waiting for it to take full effect, she kept gagging and even cried a little from the weird sensation. For the procedure she was swaddled and a nurse held her still. I had my hands on her the whole time and kept telling her I was right there and it was almost over. The procedure, a lasering of the upper lip frenum and tongue frenum, didn’t even take a minute. The dentist said her tongue tie was so thick he could hardly believe it — that when it released her tongue flew up and hit the roof of her mouth. I couldn’t see that part, but I saw the lip tie and it was really thick, too. Madeline’s scream during the procedure was one I’ll never forget, but she was soothed quickly and was okay after. She said “That hurts me mommy,” and I told her I knew and that she didn’t have to do it anymore. She was comfortable enough after and willing to go with my aunt to the waiting room. She ate two Popsicles and two lollipops right after. By the time my son’s procedure was finished, she was running around the waiting room happy.
My almost four month old really did quite well in the procedure. They didn’t give him any numbing gel, because he’d have had no chance of comfort nursing after if they had. He was swaddled and I was able to see the whole procedure since he was smaller and I was closer to his face. It took some serious work to break through his ties (much more effort than what I’d seen in YouTube videos of the procedure). As with Madeline, I talked to him and kept my hands on him. He cried hard, but, honestly, it was nothing I hadn’t heard from him before. Like my daughter, he was in my arms the second the procedure was completed. I attempted to nurse him, but he struggled to soothe. I was glad I brought a bottle with me. He took a little cold formula from the bottle and then was calm enough to latch on to nurse. His lips flanged well and it instantly felt different. Better.
After the procedures, the kids were in good spirits, so we went to a nearby park, then drove home and went to Madeline’s tumbling class. After tumbling she and I walked to the park by our house. By the time we got home she was exhausted. Foods of the day included yogurt, chocolate pudding, rice pudding, Pirates Booty, ice pops and lollipops. I did their first stretches that night and Madeline wasn’t into it, but I told her if I couldn’t do them we’d have to go back to the dentist. She reluctantly let me in, while crying. She was asleep by 6:15 and slept through the night (I didn’t wake her for Tylenol). The following morning she had a huge fat lip, but it didn’t stop her from eating rice cereal, drinking water, playing and eating a Skittle after her stretches (no crying from then on during them).
Benjamin was much sadder and more fussy than Madeline that first evening, requiring constant holding and rocking, but I believed part of it was gas in addition to his mouth hurting. He took his nighttime bottle (his one supplement bottle — 6 oz) so well. The fast nipple actually felt super fast, I suspected because he was actually latched on well and sucking hard. I could barely break the suction to give him a break to catch his breath. He was a little restless in his slumber, but his first stretch of sleep was four hours, then three and then two. He wouldn’t take his pacifier and actually comfort-nursed while sleeping next to me (this had never happened before). I only gave him Tylenol after his second waking. The next morning we started back up with an every 4 hour regimen of Tylenol and Hylands Teething Gel. Benjamin was extremely tolerant of his stretches.
For two weeks following, per doctors orders, we did their stretches faithfully and saw good healing of their wounds.
The ResultsMadeline’s new and improved smile is stunning and such a treat to see! Her speech, after just six months of private therapy post-frenectomy, progressed beyond our highest hopes! Her intelligibility has increased profoundly and her articulation continues to improve. Best of all, her confidence has sky-rocketed!
Benjamin and I had an awesome breastfeeding relationship post-frenectomy. My little hungry man continued to take one nightly bottle as a supplement but he upped his daytime feedings and was a much happier nurser. At almost ten months, he weaned himself (a bit earlier than I would have preferred) and took 2-3 bottles a day in addition to tons and tons and tons of solids. His teeth have been coming in slowly and steadily, with space in between (different from Madeline’s crowded mouth). And at 14 months old, his speech is better than we knew possible for a baby of his age.
If I could and knowing what I know now, I would go back in time and have both of my children evaluated and treated very early on, at just days or weeks old. But as it were, I wouldn’t change a thing about our journey through evaluation, procedure and recovery from frenctomies. I am absolutely thrilled with the results!
Note: Upper lip and tongue ties may not be the cause of painful/dysfunctional breastfeeding for every baby, but if your story sounds anything like ours I strongly encourage you to look into it! Please consult with your local IBCLC, pediatric dentist or pediatrician as a starting point. If you have any questions about my experience with upper lip and tongue ties or the frenectomy procedure, I’m here for you. Please feel free to message me!