Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Parenting: Our Lip Tie Experience

Back in 2014, I read a post about lip ties on the blog, Bower Power. I almost didn't read it because it wasn't the routine home improvement stuff that Katie Bower normally writes about. Not to mention the fact that at that time I had a toddler who most certainly did not have a tongue or lip or tongue tie (he can touch his nose with his tongue!). So lip and tongue ties weren't really something that had any bearing on my life. But for some reason I felt compelled to read the post and I tucked the information away in the back of my cobwebby mommy brain.

Fast forward to the spring of 2015 and I had a newborn baby in my arms. The post about lip and tongue ties was still lingering in my brain and I remember being in the hospital and looking in my new baby's mouth, curious as to whether he might have any kind of a tie. 

At the time it seemed to me that he might have a lip tie and I questioned the lactation consultant, and later PED, about the possibility and ramifications of said lip tie. Everyone blew me off and said that unless there was difficulty nursing they wouldn’t correct it (I was the crazy lady who was asking questions about something I read on a blog). And then I kind of forgot about it. And our little 6lb 12oz baby started gaining a pound a week, so he obviously wasn't having trouble eating...

Fast forward 7 months and our little boy's front two teeth came in right before Thanksgiving. I realized that it was difficult to see his new teeth and as I raised his lips to get a better look, I immediately noticed a significant lip tie.

I revisited the Bower Power blog post and proceeded to do a bunch of online research. I was certain that he had a Class 4 Upper Lip Tie, so I scheduled a consultation and tentative laser frenectomy with Dr. Wessels of Allied Pediatrics in Chattanooga.

We weren't 100% committed to doing a laser frenectomy, and even spoke with many friends who had been given advice from pediatricians to just allow the tie to resolve on its own (i.e. essentially wait for the child to fall and bust their mouth open). 

As we met with Dr. Wessels, she listened to our concerns and asked questions about our nursing habits. While Isaac was a big baby, he had a shallow latch (uncomfortable for me!) and I had resorted to block feeding (one side at a time for 5 minute stretches for the past 7 months). He was also super gassy in the evenings and a happy spitter (possible reflux, but never officially diagnosed). Jack was the same way and I just assumed all of this was normal.


Dr. Wessels set the record straight – it was not normal and Isaac had one of the worst lip ties she had ever seen. She seemed quite surprised that I had been able to nurse for so long without immense pain. I think whatever experience you have with nursing, you just assume it is normal because you don't have any other point of reference.

We opted to have the procedure done right there in the office. This way we wouldn't be relying on him to fall and break his lip tie at a later date, plus the significant gap between his teeth would most likely correct itself as the rest of his teeth came in (so no braces for a gap when he is older), and the uncomfortable nursing situation would hopefully improve.


We stayed with Isaac while the procedure was completed. The worst part, by far, was that he had to have a numbing shot in his gums. Daniel held him for this (I couldn't watch). Dr. Wessels stayed with us and helped make Isaac laugh while the medicine took effect. For the actual procedure, Isaac had to be swaddled and wear little goggles – he hated this part (he has never liked to be swaddled!). He cried a lot but I'm pretty sure he was just angry because he was being held down. The entire process with the laser took about 5 minutes and then he was back in my arms.

Afterward Dr. Wessels gave him a pedialyte popcicle and all was immediately forgiven. Post-op I had to stretch his lip several times a day. He hated this! And days 3-5 were difficult because the nerves in his mouth started to grow back. He was definitely more fussy on those days. Orajel Naturals was really helpful for easing his pain and making the lip stretches more bearable.  

At our follow up appointment Dr. Wessels said I could stop stretching his lip and that the tie would not grow back. I confirmed that nursing had improved – I stopped block feeding and he had a deeper latch and would eat for longer. Plus his gas had resolved and the spitting up had mostly stopped.

I am so glad we opted to move forward with the procedure, it was the right decision for our family. I only wish we had realized sooner and pushed for it when he was younger.

When researching I found a provider list of pediatricians who do the laser procedure and the ONLY pediatrician listed for Tennessee happened to be Dr. Wessels in Chattanooga, and she was truly fantastic. She listened to us, provided breast feeding support, was open to alternative medicine (even suggesting we get an amber bracelet for pain relief) and even gave me a high five for being a good mom, followed by a hug when we left her practice. 

If you think your child may have a tongue or lip tie, press your pediatrician about this, or at the very least join an online community and ask other parents about their experiences. It can make a huge difference in your breast feeding experience, and also resolve issues like gas and reflux.

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