How I Didn’t Let Tongue Tie End My Breastfeeding Story

Baby B was my third baby. I thought I knew what there was to know about breastfeeding. I’d done it before.

However, there I was. Sleep deprived, irritable and feeling like something wasn’t right. I hadn’t slept more than 2 hours a night in 5 days. Maybe more? That time is fuzzy, now.

Baby B was four months old, and he was the first of my children that I had not supplemented with formula. I was determined to breastfeed him until his 1st birthday. By four months, my older kids had already slipped into bedtime routines, sleeping through the night and eating at the same times each day.

When my infant wasn’t sleeping through the night anymore, I told myself that baby B was different. Since he was 100% breastfed, I thought this was probably normal. At his four-month check-up, we discovered that he hadn’t gained weight.

The doctor told me that he had a tongue tie and referred me to a specialist. I had no idea of how to look for tongue tie. It wasn’t even on my list of things that I should be checking for.

What is Tongue Tie and Why It Needs To Be Addressed

Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia (say that ten times fast), is when the frenulum (that band of tissue under your tongue that connects the tongue to the bottom of your mouth) is short and tight.

Tongue tie was constricting the movement of my baby boy’s tongue which impaired his ability to properly latch during nursing sessions.

Latch and Tongue Tie

Since baby B couldn’t use his tongue to latch correctly, he couldn’t get all the milk he needed from each nursing session. Often, he would fall asleep while nursing from the exhaustion of trying to get enough milk. I would put him down only to find him crying 15 minutes later and wanting to nurse again.

Because I wasn’t familiar with tongue tie, I initially thought he was cluster feeding and kept nursing on demand while hoping his growth spurt would end soon.

Where Did My Milk Go?

Because baby B wasn’t latching well, he also wasn’t emptying each breast during nursing sessions. My milk production quickly decreased.

In the first few months, B was sleeping in 6-hour stretches each night. After putting him to bed at 9:00 PM, I would stay up until midnight and pump 4-6 ounces while he slept. At four months, I was only able to pump 3 ounces during that midnight pumping session.

Milk supply should have been my first clue to realizing that we were having latch problems, but it never crossed my mind.

It wasn’t until his four-month well-check that I understood why my milk was decreasing, why he wasn’t sleeping and why it had felt like he had been in the same size onesies for a bit too long.

Why is that important? Because I wasn’t a new mom with zero experience breastfeeding.

Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, or perhaps it was the fact that the lactation consultant didn’t spend as much time with me at the hospital because I was a “veteran mom.”

For four months, my son struggled with nursing, and we didn’t know. He slept well and acted like a happy, healthy baby until a week before his four-month birthday.

A frenecto-what?

We were the first ones in the specialist’s office that morning.

After a quick examination, he confirmed that the tongue tie was severe. He advised a frenectomy to correct the issue.

Sometimes performed by a dentist, or in our case, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist, a frenectomy is a quick outpatient procedure. Our doctor used surgical scissors to snip the frenulum and cauterized the ends.

Some doctors do the procedure with a laser, which will heal differently. However, the result is the same: the tongue is no longer constrained and held down.

The procedure is unnerving to watch as a parent, but I don’t believe that baby B felt much. He was upset that we were holding him down, but as soon as the procedure was over and I picked him up he stopped crying.

His tongue also had the full range of motion immediately after the procedure. We caught him playing with his tongue and giggling about it for several days after.

Recovery

Recovery from a procedure to correct tongue tie is relatively simple.

The specialist had us sweep under his tongue a few times a day with a clean finger. This was to prevent the frenulum from reattaching as it healed.

After a week, the area was completely healed, and there was no indication of tongue tie except for a small indentation under his tongue where the frenulum had been snipped.

Nursing

About 30 minutes after the procedure was completed, baby B was nursing.

The difference was noticeable right away. His latch was immediately stronger and deeper. He drained both breasts quickly. And, wanted more!

We tried to supplement with formula, but he wouldn’t take it. He only wanted breast milk. So, I needed to find a way to bring back my milk supply quickly.

Work with a lactation consultant

Three days after baby B’s frenectomy, I met with a lactation consultant for a one on one session. She confirmed that baby B’s latch was perfect and the procedure had corrected the issues.

However, since my milk supply had decreased, he was still having trouble feeling full. He was only getting about 2 ounces per breast before becoming frustrated.

To stimulate milk production, the lactation consultant recommended pumping 4-6 times a day.

Yes, you can get your milk back

Being the overachiever that I am, I decided I was not only going to get my milk back, but I wanted to build a freezer stash as well.

I continued to nurse on demand and pumped for 15 minutes using a double electric pump after every nursing session.

Baby B started to sleep for 6-hour stretches, so after he had been asleep for three hours, I would do a power pump session.

A power pump session is when you pump for 20 minutes, take a 10-minute break, pump for 10 minutes, take another 10-minute break and pump one more time for 10 minutes.

By doing that I was able to freeze 4-8 ounces per day in addition to bottle feeding him 3 ounces of breastmilk after each nursing session.

After about three days of doing this, my milk increased enough that I didn’t have to supplement with pumped milk anymore.

I continued to pump on this schedule until baby B was eating solids at six months. At my most productive sessions, I was able to pump 10 ounces in a power pump session and 3-4 ounces after nursing sessions.

A word on supplements

I was feeling desperate to increase my milk supply, so I took pretty much every milk boosting product on the market.

While I do believe that my milk increased when I took Brewer’s Yeast, it could also be because I was eating more calories (baking the yeast into banana bread). I also drank a gallon of water per day.

Hydration and creating round the clock demand are more likely to have been the keys to my success over the endless supplements.

Your baby will be just fine

When I first received the tongue tie diagnosis, I cried my eyes out.

Feelings of guilt (why hadn’t I known that he was not latching properly), fear (how would this affect him in the future) and anxiety (was this the end of my breastfeeding goals) overcame me. After making the appointment with the specialist, I sat in my car sobbing.

I read every blog post that I could find on tongue tie and recovery. I studied how to bring back a dwindling milk supply and cried some more at the lactation consultant’s office. However, in the end, baby B is just fine, and your baby will be just fine, too.

He is now a happy and healthy toddler. He has since weaned from breastfeeding to whole milk and can out eat his 3-year-old brother at nearly every meal.

Hearing that your infant can’t eat is terrifying. However, tongue tie is a relatively common and easily corrected issue.

It is possible to have a long and happy nursing journey with your little one after a tongue tie diagnosis.

Jenny Welsh lives in Southern California with her three children, husband and one neurotic dog. She helps moms manage their homes, time and finances at  Home After Three and in her Facebook group, www.facebook.com/groups/momstimewellspent. Have you struggled with tongue-tie? If so, when did you find out your baby was tongue-tied?   

For more info on tongue-tie read 

Answering All Your Questions About Tongue-tie and Lip Ties -How They Can Affect Breastfeeding

and Tiffany’s Story

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