Many moms and dads I have encountered have heard similar myths when deciding whether to get their baby’s tie(s) revised. From my experience as a lip and tongue tie navigator, many parents are hoping that by trying other therapies and taking a “wait and see” attitude, the tie(s) will eventually improve. Unfortunately, first-hand experience and sound research proves otherwise.
Myth #1: ” My Lactation Consultant says that if my baby has a frenectomy, he will be in too much pain to latch.”
Thanks in part to a rigorous public campaign by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to rise. The APA recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer (as mutually desired by mother and infant). The World Health Organization goes one step further and recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. Unfortunately for moms of infant with lip and tongue ties, however, feeding complications and difficulties many times cause the breastfeeding journey to end prematurely. Let’s be honest: it is rare that breastfeeding issues will improve or be resolved if a baby has a lip or tongue tie. As is illustrated below, when an infant is tied, negative pressure is compromised, causing baby to have a shallow latch due to the tongue falling short (which can cause a distinctive clicking sound, air build-up in baby’s belly, and significant pain to mom’s breasts when feeding).
It’s true that the post-operative period CAN be painful for a few days, but it’s nothing that can’t be managed with over the counter pain medication or homeopathic methods. In fact, many parents have reported that babies have latched onto the breast/bottle successfully immediately after the procedure. A good provider will give parents the opportunity to feed their loved post-procedure to ensure that baby is able to successfully latch and take in nutrients. Staff will also give in-depth education and provide support on how to manage the post-operative period at home.
Myth #2: “Breastfeeding hurts.”
As first-time breastfeeding moms, women may not fully understand the unique sensations and challenges of nursing. They are tired, overwhelmed, and have multiple people around them (medical providers and family members alike) providing well-intentioned but not always sound advice and/or information. As a result, the myth that breastfeeding should be painful is one that persists to this day. In her great book, It Shouldn’t Hurt to Nurse Your Baby, Lisa Paladino, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a lip and tongue tie expert, lovingly explains that breastfeeding is natural and should not hurt, and also outlines common causes and solutions to painful latching (including lip and tongue ties). While some moms are able to consult with an IBCLC like Paladino while still in the hospital, many lack the continued support and encouragement needed to continue to breastfeed correctly and successfully upon discharge home. In fact, a breastfeeding mother may not even feel the pain of a poorly latching newborn until after they are released from the hospital. According to a 2013 study, 81% of women started out breastfeeding their newborns (highest statistic to date), but only 31% were still breastfeeding at the 6 month mark (Baxter). All of these factors, combined with pressure to ensure that baby’s weight is increasing, ridiculous comparisons of ounces taken in via bottle vs. breast, lack of breastfeeding support from family, place of employment and/or pediatrician, as well as a significant lack of sleep, it’s no wonder that so many moms decide to end their breastfeeding journey early. Once again, the system is failing the mother and baby dyad.
Myth #3: “My pediatrician said that my baby is not tied.”
This is one of the reasons I started Help With Ties, because my son’s pediatrician said that he was not tied. Luckily, I listened to my gut instinct and did my own research! When our pediatrician did not examine my son thoroughly, I knew that I needed a second opinion and that I was alone in navigating his care. According to Dr. Baxter, a leading expert in the field, lip and tongue ties are not taught or covered in most medical and dental programs in the United States, which explains why so many pediatricians lack the knowledge and assessment skills to diagnose ties. Common responses given to parents about ties by pediatricians include: “lip and tongue ties go away on their own”, “they do not impact acid reflux, breast or bottle feeding”, and that “ties are a ‘fad’”. Clearly, this significant gap in understanding desperately needs to be addressed so that newborns with ties can be swiftly diagnosed and treated. In spite of this lack of education in the community, there is a growing movement – of which Help With Ties is proudly a part of – that hopes to elevate the importance of the complications that can occur as a result of having a lip and/or tongue tie. More specifically, there needs to be a willingness on behalf of pediatricians and pediatric specialists to learn more about the subject and to take it seriously, so that real progress can occur. I encourage parents to not only do their own research, like I did, but to also encourage their pediatricians to understand that lip and tongue ties DO exist, they DO impact feeding, and they are NOT just a “fad”.
Myth #4: “My baby can stick her tongue out, so she’s probably not tied, right?”
Posterior-tied babies in particular may be able to stick their tongues out without difficulty. However, even though a baby can stick its tongue in and out, other important movements of the tongue may still be compromised. At minimum, this can affect feeding, digestion, breathing, and proper mouth development. To rule out a tie, it is always best to consult with a lip and tongue savvy provider, as well as other specialists, such as a speech therapist who can evaluate oral motor function. Help With Ties is always able to assist in setting up parents with providers that properly can evaluate a baby for a lip and/or tongue tie.
Myth #5: “My baby has a tie, but we aren’t going to correct it because he doesn’t have any symptoms.”
I do not believe in fixing something that is not broken. If baby is not having symptoms that include (but are not limited to) acid reflux, colic symptoms, or breastfeeding issues such poor and/or shallow latch, it may be best to leave the tie alone. After all, lip and tongue ties are diagnosed based on anatomy AND symptoms. However, keep in mind that as baby gets older, other issues are likely to arise, such as sleep apnea, speech impairments, swallowing disorders, dental decay, musculoskeletal pain and GERD, among others. Because of the potential complications of ties, then, many parents decide to have them released when the child is still an infant. The sooner the procedure is done, the quicker it is for the child to retrain oral motor function and to give them a chance develop normally.
Deciding on having a frenectomy done on your baby can be tough; I know, because I’ve experienced it first-hand. It is already difficult adjusting to the demands of a newborn, postpartum hormones, and other factors, without having to add the stress of a surgical procedure on top of it all. If your child IS having symptoms, however, isn’t it already stressful dealing with the effects of an un-clipped tie? How much are you able to enjoy your relationship with your baby if your day is filled with administering antacids throughout the day, pumping every few hours, constantly looking for the “right” formula and bottle, looking for the best colic drops or spending endless hours at the pediatrician’s office to address baby’s unresolved symptoms? I KNOW YOU – I was there. Stop and think: Should a potential issue that can cause long term effects be covered up or ignored? Why are doctors prescribing infants harsh medications when they have not ruled out a tongue tie? Why are we radiating children and sticking probes in them (as is done during swallow studies and endoscopies) when a tie has not been ruled out? My recommendation to any parent that thinks that their child may have a tie is to GET HELP. Find a provider who is well versed in checking for a tie. Be an advocate for your child and do your own research. And most importantly, don’t give up! For more information and support, please check out our website at http://www.helpwithties.com, or email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation. Finding the right provider is important. Let us help you!
Additional Information/Stories of Interest:
• South Florida has a Facebook Support group: Lip and Tongue Tie Support Group of South Florida. This is a great way for local parents that have babies with ties to connect. https://www.facebook.com/groups/228037401181325/
• Baby Lucy and her mother went through a great battle trying to get diagnosed. At the end of it all, Lucy’s mother turned to social media and a friend for assistance when her trusted pediatricians failed her. Baby Lucy’s story: https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/her-eyes-were-dull-and-sunken-in-moms-warning-about-tongue-or-lip-tie-issues-with-breastfeeding-after-newborns-dramatic-weight-loss/
• Similar to Lucy, baby Otto also experienced some challenging times. Baby Otto’s mom mentioned a tie to her pediatrician and was turned away with a prescription for a swallow barium study that she couldn’t get for 2 months. Her frustration grew to a crippling degree until she consulted with an ENT in the hospital. Baby Otto’s story: https://www.staciebingham.com/blog/ottos-tongue-tie-story
Baxter, R., DMD. (2018). Tongue Tied. Pelham, AL: Alabama Tongue-Tie Center.
Caswell, T.C. (2016, March 14). Otto’s Tongue Tie Story [Blog post]. Retrived September 25th, 2018, from https://www.staciebingham.com/blog/ottos-tongue-tie-story
Murphy, E. M. (2018, May 18). [Lucy’s Story] [Blog post]. Retrived September 25th, 2018, from https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/her-eyes-were-dull-and-sunken-in-moms-warning-about-tongue-or-lip-tie-issues-with-breastfeeding-after-newborns-dramatic-weight-loss/
For more information about Lisa Paladino’s book about nursing, please click on the link below: