When Quartersquat was born, Halfsquat was three years old. She was just starting to wean from nursing so I felt pretty confident that I’d have no trouble nursing my newborn, especially with 3 years of experience under my belt. Yet, we struggled to get and keep a proper latch.
I felt in my gut that something was wrong. He started displaying signs of reflux, was extremely gassy and wasn’t gaining weight properly. After excessive time spent on google and on breastfeeding support forums, I asked our pediatrician to check him for tongue and lip ties.
Mayo Clinic defines the condition as follows:
"Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition present at birth that restricts the tongue's range of motion.
With tongue-tie, an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) tethers the bottom of the tongue's tip to the floor of the mouth, so it may interfere with breast-feeding".
The doctor took a quick look with his tongue depressor and stated without a doubt that Quartersquat ”does not appear to have any ties. And it’s really not something to worry about as it doesn’t affect breastfeeding. That’s just a myth.”
After a couple more weeks of struggling, a bout of mastitis (thank God for Sunflower Lecithin,) and Quartersquat displaying colicky behaviors, I approached another pediatrician in the practice and asked again about ties. He took a look and said “You know, ties aren’t really something we worry about anymore. He looks good to me.”
The doctor went on to suggest I supplement with formula or pumped milk and that perhaps my milk supply was low.
Note to self: This practice is not breastfeeding friendly. Find a new pediatrician.
I have learned that there is a proper way to assess for ties and our pediatricians did not have training or knowledge in this method. Here‘s a video of the proper way to check for ties. If your provider isn’t doing this,
find someone who will.
I knew in my gut that I was right about the ties but in case I was the one doing something wrong, I decided to show up for the breastfeeding support group at the hospital where Quartersquat was born. There, I met the first person to take my concerns seriously, a lactation consultant. A lactation consultant is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. They can be a support and source of encouragement as well as help troubleshoot when the breastfeeding relationship isn't developing properly.
She thoughtfully watched us latch and nurse. We weighed Quartersquat before and after nursing. He was not getting enough milk despite both of our efforts. She said, "You are doing everything right but he’s not getting enough." She stated that she believed Quartersquat had a tongue and a lip tie and we should have it revised. She gave me the name of a pediatric ENT. I felt so validated and relieved to have a possible solution.
I called the ENT the following day only to discover that we needed a referral from his pediatrician to be seen.
I had not found a new pediatrician yet and frankly felt quite a bit of distrust for the whole profession at this point. I began researching other options.
I found that our best option was to see a preferred provider nearby - a pediatric dental surgeon. (Here’s where you can find a list of preferred providers in your state.) The consultation, alone, was going to be a bit pricey. I needed another professional opinion before spending that kind of money.
I discovered a program that was free to children under one year old to get evaluated for early intervention, speech therapy, physical therapy, and feeding therapy. I made an appointment for Quartersquat to be seen by a speech therapist.
The speech therapist’s office catered to toddlers and so when we came in, I settled all six feet of my postpartum body down into a toddler chair while holding my 2 month old. The therapist watched us nurse while listening to my concerns and taking notes on her yellow notepad. She looked inside Quartersquat’s mouth and felt around with gloved fingers.
The speech therapist agreed that both a tongue and upper-lip tie were present and that a revision was recommended in order to avoid issues in the coming years.
According to tonguetie.net, some problems that can arise from unrevised ties include:
I made an appointment with a local pediatric dental surgeon that I found on the preferred providers list but had to wait 30 days for our insurance from Hub’s new job to kick in. So we struggled for another month while waiting for Quartersquat’s appointment.
When the day finally arrived, I was a nervous wreck. Nobody wants their baby to go through surgery and although I knew it was a simple procedure and that it would be worth it, I still had the jitters.
The Dental Surgeon checked for ties and agreed with the lactation consultant and the speech therapist. He told us about the procedure and the aftercare. We agreed to move forward.
The dental assistant came in and applied eye patches to protect Quartersquat’s eyes from the bright light and the laser. Hubs volunteered to hold him during the procedure and got to don a very stylish pair of shades. I thought I may need to leave the room if Quartersquat cried but the surgeon assured me that the laser wouldn’t hurt him and that he’d only be mad that someone had their fingers in his mouth. I was skeptical but I chose the laser over the scalpel because I was not comfortable putting my 3 month old under anesthesia and by that age, anesthesia is necessary.
I looked away as they began the procedure. Quartersquat cried but the surgeon was right. It was definitely his mad cry and not his hurt cry.
Thank you, Jesus.
The entire procedure couldn’t have taken more than eight seconds. He was in my arms and nursing immediately afterwards. I was informed that 1 in 8 babies nurse well right away. We were the lucky ones.
In the following 10 days, we did the required stretches around the clock.
Real talk - the stretches are no joke.
Quartersquat hated them and I hated having to hold him down but they were absolutely necessary to prevent scar tissue and regrowth of the frenulum.
When we got the all clear at his follow-up appointment, I was relieved. As the weeks went on, his reflux continued to improve. His latch was no longer painful and the his colicky behavior was completely gone. Quartersquat was a whole new baby. A happy baby. AND, as icing on the cake, he began gaining weight normally.
Through my many hours of research on ties, I found out that ties are a midline defect and a marker for a genetic mutation called Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase or MTHFR and I fell down the MTHFRing (insert swear word joke here) rabbit hole... MTHFR prevents normal detoxification which can result is many medical issues and often leads to mental illness. MTHFR is hereditary so if Quartersquat had it, that meant that it came from one or both of us. I wondered if I had the mutation given my long history of depression, anxiety and ADHD.
Genetic testing is expensive so I tried to let go of my curiosity but, I'm not gonna lie, I was obsessed with this gene mutation. I was sure I had it. Suddenly I started to see adds in my Facebook Newsfeed for a genetic study for people with a history of depression and/or bipolar disorder. I signed up for the study and answered monthly surveys in return for free genetic testing.
Through this testing I discovered that I am heterozygous for the MTHFR gene mutation as well as several others. I learned how to supplement correctly for my body and within 2 months, my depression was gone. Not to say that I don’t have bad days like everyone else but that soul-sucking darkness is no longer there. (I will write a post covering these steps in much more detail for you all so keep an eye out!)
Discovering Quartersquat’s tongue and lip-tie was a challenging time but I feel so blessed to have learned such important information throughout the process. If you are struggling with nursing, don’t give up. Mother's intuition is a real gift from God... Trust that mama-gut! Get second opinions! Educate yourself and advocate for your little one. You may make a discovery that will forever change your and your baby’s lives for the better.