Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry but it is written by a local mom about her unique & authentic experience.
Real Life, One Mom’s Experience with a Tongue Tie & Frenectomy
We have a Tongue Tie
When I had my baby this summer, one of the nurses almost immediately noticed a tongue tie while still in the hospital. It was pretty clear when he pushed his tongue outward, and the tissue under the tongue pulled it back making almost a small heart shape with the tip of his tongue. We assessed the latch for breastfeeding with the onsite lactation consultant, and even with his tongue tie it looked as though he was eating well and latching fine. Even though he was eating well, he was still likely swallowing more air than he needed leading to a lot of fussiness and gas. I also already knew from reading Dr. Anita Gouri’s articles on Lafayette Mom, that there are many other things a tongue tie can affect beyond feeding and beyond infancy (think speech and even sleep apnea as an adult). As such, we decided to see Dr. Gouri at Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry for a consult.
The Official Diagnosis and Pre Frenectomy Preparation
Around 3 weeks of age, we visited Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry and had Dr. Gouri check his mouth. There was absolutely a tongue tie, but she also diagnosed a lip tie that the previous doctors had not noticed. Of course, this all made me super nervous, but she walked me through each step and gave me a handout on what we needed to know and do from start to finish including stretches to do during the 4-6 week recovery period. We sought out her recommendation for a lactation consultant, feeding therapist, and occupational therapist all rolled into one, Jeanne Pichoff, who also assessed him for other issues like torticollis (twisting of the neck), observed a feeding, and then went over and taught me both exercises and stretches for post-op. I was really nervous for the post frenectomy recovery period and the stretches, but having Dr. Gouri and the OT’s help really gave me the confidence and support I needed to go through with it.
The Frenectomy Procedure
At around 6 weeks of age, my little one had his frenectomy, which is the procedure that removes the tethering tissue at the top and bottom of his mouth. The procedure with Dr. Gouri is very quick and done with a laser. I chose to do it at this young age because I have heard from others that the older they get, the more difficult the procedure and the recovery are for both the child and for the parent. We were able to give a dose of Tylenol right before and were advised the most discomfort would come around day 3-5. We got the numbing gel (suitable for babies his age), gloves for the stretches, and buckled down for post-op recovery.
Dr. Gouri takes your baby back to a private room. The procedure only takes a few minutes and my little only cried for a few seconds. My baby was immediately brought back to me as you are allowed to bottle feed or breastfeed your baby in a private room immediately following the frenectomy to help soothe them. There was a bit of blood which is normal and common right after the procedure. It is also normal for it to bleed in the first few weeks when doing stretches. However, we did not encounter a lot of bleeding in the weeks after the initial laser procedure.
I won’t sugar coat it, seeing my little baby right after with a wound was hard – how could it not be hard? I cried a little bit (ok maybe more than he did). But Dr. Gouri sat with me when I was ready to go over the stretches again (yes again, she is very thorough). She again reassured me and helped me to be confident that I could handle the follow up stretches and exercises. The OT was also available post-op if I needed to go back for a reminder or help with his stretches or with feeding. I went home with the very thorough handout which guided me through all the steps. It even included video links demonstrating the stretches. I was given all the support necessary to take the frenectomy recovery head on!
The Frenectomy Recovery
I honestly was not as much worried about the procedure itself, but the recovery and healing period. Recovery consists of at least 4 weeks of stretches and exercises using a gloved hand (or without gloves, but I preferred them for sanitary reasons). Stretches were to be done every 4 hours including the night time for the first few weeks. Then eventually you can drop the overnight stretches. The stretches are vital to keep the tongue from re-attaching. The additional exercises the OT recommended help strengthen the tongue and learn new movement since the tongue has been previously tethered and unable to move in those ways previously. Your baby begins sucking in the womb, so just like other muscles, the tongue’s built up muscle memory has to be undone and relearned. You also may find the feeding gets worse before it gets better after a frenectomy. This is normal, but with time it will improve as the tongue relearns a new movement. After talking to a few parents, you may not always get instruction on how to stretch their tongue/lip ties after the frenectomy so be sure to ask your doctor or even an OT/Speech Therapist if they can provide you with some. Or you can just see Dr. Gouri, and she can walk you through the process from start to finish!
The Follow Up
Dr. Gouri also does two follow ups to check the tongue tie and to make sure you are on track to keep it from re-attaching. We saw her one week and three weeks after the procedure. All checked out well with my little guy and his tongue and latch has vastly improved since his procedure. I can really tell the difference from his once shallow latch to now. I also notice him sticking his tiny little tongue out at me from time to time. The recovery time can be tedious and difficult, especially during those long nights, but stay the course and you will have a little tongue sticking out at you in no time!