Tongue-Tie & Me
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Not long ago BBC News published a story headlining "Babies 'don't need tongue-tie surgery to feed'". This is an issue I know only too well. Both my boys had tongue-tie. Lex’s was undiagnosed for 8 very painful days. My nipples were raw and I could not pick him up for a cuddle/comfort because poor feeding led to thrush, mastitis and a whole host of other problems. Sonny’s tongue tie was diagnosed immediately, he could not get any milk from me and the hospital advised us to pay privately and get it cut ASAP. We got them both cut. By the time Lex had his cut the damage was done and my nipples struggled to heal. I relentless continued to breastfeed by expressing my milk. Even that was painful. I found feeding harder than labour. When we had Sonny’s cut we were told his tongue tie was 100% and he would’ve had speech problems, let alone feeding problems. After his procedure I sought help from the local NHS breast feeding clinic but it didn’t work out. I stopped breastfeeding again, after only two weeks, for my own mental and physical well-being if nothing else. Would this have been different with the right support? With Lex I don’t think so, the damage was done. I breastfed for 6 weeks, and after switching to formula I never looked back.
With Sonny, I was all too well versed following Lex’s experience. Sonny’s tongue tie was severe and we caught it early before my nipples got chewed off. Yet still it didn’t work out. Maybe I accepted defeat too easily, maybe in my heart of hearts I didn’t want to go down that road again. I got thrush on the breast and decided again, enough is enough. After just two weeks I went over to formula. And I never looked back. These decisions were for my own wellbeing. Every mother is different. I would watch my friends feed blissfully, enjoying that comfort with their baby, bonding and doing what nature intended them to do. So much of my work as a hypnobirthing instructor encourages us to understand the physiology of our bodies, how we are geared and designed to have babies. I often wondered then, in primal days, how they coped with "tongue-tie". Did it exist? Did mother’s just feed regardless of the pain? Have we just become too sensitive and medicalised as a society in our attitudes to tongue tie? Who knows. All I know is I physically struggled and I stopped my breastfeeding journey for my own wellbeing. I believe with motherhood there’s no right or wrong. It’s about survival. Do what is right for you and your baby and the rest will follow. And that’s what I did. Every journey is different, learn to trust your instincts.
This US study concludes that two thirds did not need the procedure, meaning a third do. Interestingly, it's not writing off tongue-tie surgery as a whole, but that there is a scale on the severity of the condition.
The NHS waiting list for tongue-tie surgery, depending on your NHS Trust, is weeks and can be months. Many people, who can afford it, choose to have this procedure done privately within hours. I wonder then, if professionals administering the surgery privately, would be honest enough to admit if the baby 'did not' require the surgery. Reflecting on all this, will I breastfeed third time round should we have another? Yes! Would I opt for tongue-tie surgery should I need it? Yes! At least I would know that any discomfort, feeding failures and speech problems would be eliminated and I could give it my best shot.But I must ensure I get the right support. Thankfully, my line of work has meant I’ve met some amazing practitioners, some of whom, specialise in breastfeeding. I’ll have them all lined up and ready. But ultimately Mums have to do what is right for them, and that’s trusting your instincts, surgery or not.
To read the BBC News story in full: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-48934994 Further reading on tongue-tie: