Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding

November 3, 2015

My Story

Two years ago we encountered a problem that we never foresaw.

Tooth decay.

In our two year old.

It was only on his front two teeth.

The first dentist I saw scolded me for still nursing him. I never visited her again. So, I started to do some research. I came across some articles about lip ties. What the articles were saying made total sense. That, because of the lip tie, food and milk get stuck in the little pockets next to the tie, and they can’t clear out naturally, causing decay. I checked my son. Sure enough, he had a lip tie. I didn’t know anything about lip ties. Our oldest had no issues gaining weight or nursing, but he used to cry and cry as a baby. I was always told by doctors that baby’s cry. My mama intuition felt something was off. He was later diagnosed with SPD, but I wonder if some of it was breastfeeding with a lip tie, which caused too much air to be swallowed making him gassy and uncomfortable.

When we had our second child, she nursed right away too. I immediately checked for a lip tie because I worried about decay issues later on. I had no idea that the ties would effect breastfeeding. She had a pretty significant looking lip tie. I didn’t know what a tongue tie was at this point. I also noticed that she couldn’t flare her top lip up while nursing to create fish lips. She would have massive projectile vomiting. She’d also make a clicking sound when she nursed. I brought this up at our 2 week appointment. The doctor said it did look like she had a lip tie, but that it wasn’t effecting breastfeeding because she was gaining weight. I told him I’d already made an appointment with an ENT to revise it. He didn’t seem thrilled at this, but that’s ok. I’d done my research.

So I get to my appointment with one of the top tongue and lip tie experts in the country, Dr. Bobby Ghaheri. I was pretty excited that he was in my city. He ended up being the best doctor I’ve ever met. He was so kind and patient with my chatty, SPD 4 year old. My 4 year old told him he was talking too loud(noise sensitive), so Dr. Ghaheri respected him and spoke quietly. He was informative and the first true natural physician I’d ever met. He took my tiny baby and cradled her as if she was his own. He was gone for maybe 1 whole minute. Brought her back after the laser treatment and encouraged me to nurse her immediately. She did. I noticed her mouth already wider when nursing. He said she also had a tongue tie. That I could go home and observe her and see if the problems went away. Thank goodness they did! I know she’d probably have better range of motion if I had her tongue tie revised also, but there weren’t enough issues leftover for me to commit to doing it.

What the Doc Has To Say

Dr. Ghaheri was kind enough to answer some questions for me. He confirmed that an upper lip tie can cause tooth decay. He’s currently researching reflux and other issues related to tongue tie. He’s got a wealth of information on his website.

What are the most common signs and symptoms of a breastfed baby with a tongue tie?

Well, to be honest, the list can be quite extensive and they don’t have to happen in a specific pattern – for the baby, it can be falling asleep prematurely at the breast, poor weight gain, poor latch, popping on and off at the breast, frustration at the breast, reflux/colic, etc. For mom, it can be pain, nipple damage, thrush, mastitis, vasospasm, breast engorgement, plugged ducts and blebs (also known as milk blisters or blocked nipple pores).

What is your advice to a mom struggling with breastfeeding?
The single most important thing to do is to get an experienced IBCLC. And if the first one isn’t giving you answers, then you seek another opinion. The IBCLC should be the hub of activity and the coordinator of care. Here is their website.

Why do you think so many medical professionals and lactation consultants are so unfamiliar and uneducated about tongue ties when they can cause so much trouble?

The main reason why LC/MD’s don’t get it is because they’re not taught about the proper tongue mechanism in school. That allows for old dogma to be passed on, so we’re probably 10 years away from this being more standard information.

What You Can Do

My biggest piece of advice to all breastfeeding mother’s – well, all mother’s – if you feel like something isn’t quite right, listen to that inner voice. Find answers. If you don’t get the answers that you wanted, find someone else with better answers. Your intuition is real and strong. Trust it.

For more information on tongue and lip ties, check out the links below.

Tell Me About Tongue Ties
Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding - LLL
Tongue Tie and Lip Tie FAQ- Dr. G
The Evidence Suggests Treating Tongue Tie For Breastfeeding Problems
How to Choose Your Provider: Does Laser vs. Scissors Matter
More Resoures

Our nursing journey still continues with both of my children. What breastfeeding obstacles have you faced and how did you overcome them?

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