All Things Lip & Tongue Ties

It’s been 1 week since Kennedy has had her lip & tongue tie revision and over the course of the last 7 days, Shawn & I have been flooded with messages from friends & family checking in her. She’s doing FANTASTIC! The difference in our little girl has been night & day. In fact, she’s such a different baby that Shawn & I have joked that someone must have snuck in in the middle of the night and swapped her out for a newer, less screaming version.

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I’ve also received so many questions about everything that has happened with Kennedy in the last week and I wanted to take this time to address them all. Keep in mind, I’m not a medical professional (by any means!) and I can only speak to my experience with her.

What exactly is a lip and/or tongue tie?

If you run your tongue along the top gum of your mouth, do you feel that little piece of skin that connects your lip to your gum? You have that same piece of skin on your bottom lip and under your tongue. Those are supposed to be there. Kennedy had them too, but they were in the wrong place and were too short. The skin on her top and bottom lips didn’t connect lip to gum, like it should. It connected lip to between where her top & bottom front teeth would be. This made it nearly impossible for her to move her lips. In addition to being in the wrong place, they were too short. They didn’t stretch to allow her to move her lips. She also had extra pieces of skin connecting her lips to her mouth called “buckle ties,” which connects her upper lip to where her eye teeth would be. To put it in perspective, the dentist said, “Her lips were literally tied to her mouth.”

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To make it even worse, she had a tongue tie. You know, that piece of skin connecting your tongue to your mouth? Well she had one, but it was so short, she couldn’t move her tongue to the roof of her mouth. Can you imagine trying to talk or eat without being able to touch the roof of the your mouth? It’s impossible.

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Lip & tongue ties can create all sorts of problems for infants & older children (i.e, speech impairments & dental problems), but for Kennedy, specifically, she was struggling to get a sufficient latch while nursing. She could latch and get milk, but she was also getting a lot of air, which was creating major stomach problems. In addition, she was just in a lot of pain, hence the constant screaming.

How did we not know she had these problems?

This question is the hardest one to answer because as a mom, I beat myself up for NOT knowing. I didn’t know for 2 months! But according to Dr. Nick Prater, the pediatric dentist we saw, this should have been caught when she was born and it wasn’t. The pediatrician & the Lactaction Consultant missed it. Not to mention, it was overlooked the 4 times I dragged my child back to the doctor’s office demanding someone see her because I knew it my gut something wasn’t right. I just didn’t know what. Apparently, neither did they.

But didn’t she have problems breastfeeding?

Yes and no. Breastfeeding was rough. She constantly latched, unlatched & screamed. Every feeding was a battle to get her on the boob and to stay on the boob. But my milk supply was more than enough (hello oversupply!) and she was gaining weight without supplementing. She gained 4 pounds in 4 weeks and doubled her birth weight before her 2 month appointment! So while we fought to get her to eat, once we got there, there wasn’t any issue. So I never called Lactation to have her looked at again because I didn’t think nursing was the problem. I thought she was just being a pain in my ass when it came to eating.

So why did I take her to a chiropractor?

I had already been to the pediatrician 4 times. I was told it was because I had too much milk (which was true, but not the problem). Then I was told she had acid reflux and finally that she was simply just colicky. Every time I took her to the doctor, I told them I was concerned about her lack of pooping. She met the wet diaper requirement each day, but she didn’t poop. She maybe pooped once a week; however, they didn’t seem concerned. I was though and because the screaming wasn’t getting better I became convinced that was the problem. So like every person searching for answers, I went to Google and found that sometimes babies need their hips adjusted following birth to relieve constant constipation. So I found Dr. Racheal McCrackin, a chiropractor that specializes in babies & children, and made an appointment.

Not only were her hips out of alignment but Dr. Racheal caught the lip & tongue ties by simply looking in her mouth and watching her nurse.

PS If you are wondering, she did adjust Kennedy’s hips and she has been pooping daily! 

So how is a lip and/or tongue tie fixed?

Dr. Prater specializes in revising these ties. Once he confirmed the diagnosis, he then used a laser to cut the skin that was holding her lips and tongue from doing their jobs. Prior to our appointment, I did a lot of research and there are 2 methods for revising ties: cutting them or using a laser.

The laser method is preferred because it decreases bleeding & recovery time, as well as lowers the risk for infection.

Unfortunately, they did not use anything to numb or sedate Kennedy prior to the procedure, so it was pretty painful for me to watch it happen to my baby girl. The bright side though, it was less than 10 minutes (probably less than 6 minutes, but it felt like FOREVER) and Kennedy was over it before we made it to the car to head home.

What happens if you don’t get a lip and/or tongue tie revised?

In our case, the dentist said we would have had to get it revised. He said eventually we would have figured it out because her specific ties would have kept her from eating solid foods and/or talking. Thankfully, we caught it before it got to that point.

What’s the recovery period like?

Dr. Prater said the first 3 days following the procedure might be rough; however, Kennedy had no issues! I think it’s because the pain from recovering was pale in comparison to what she had been feeling. I did, however, give her some Tylenol for the first few nights to help her sleep. She seemed to be in more pain at night.

For the next 5-6 weeks, we have to perform lip & tongue stretches on Kennedy. This is to ensure that the tissues in her mouth don’t reattach and grow back. She HATES them and Shawn & I take turns doing them because it makes us feel like the worse parents ever. Basically we have to pull her upper and lower lips away from her gums and hold them for 3 seconds, 3 times and then we have to stretch her tongue to the roof of her mouth for 3 seconds, 3 times. We also have to rub the areas that were revised to keep the tissues from growing back. And yes, it’s all as miserable as it sounds. Fortunately, the areas in Kennedy’s mouth are healing really well, so she’s not in pain when we do these stretches anymore. She’s just annoyed that someone is messing with her mouth…again.

In addition to the mouth exercises, Kennedy is headed back to the chiropractor! Because her lips and tongue couldn’t work as they should, Kennedy compensated in her own little way in order to nurse. However, this started to create a deformation in her soft palate in the roof of her mouth. So for the next couple of weeks we will be seeing Dr. Racheal so Kennedy can get her soft palate reshaped. Incredible, right?!

What does the chiropractor do for an infant?

Personally, I have never been to a chiropractor, but in my head, I envision a lot of popping and jerking. Let me reassure you, she does NOT pop and jerk my baby. It simply looks like she is touching Kennedy — holding her hips, touching near her spine, holding her jaw. I know the chiropractor is applying pressure at certain points, but you couldn’t tell if you didn’t know. And for the record, no it doesn’t hurt Kennedy, but yes she cries simply because she’s being bothered.

Want another fun fact? According to Dr. Racheal, Kennedy is what is called a “bullet baby.” During birth, most babies sit in the birth canal for awhile while the mother pushes the baby out. This allows the baby’s body to adjust during the birthing process. Kennedy, however, was born really fast (2 pushes, less than 5 minutes) so her body never had time to adjust. It’s similar to being in a car wreck, where the inertia carries you forward, even after the car has stopped. However, adults who are in car accidents have muscle tone & muscle memory to help their body realign. Babies don’t have muscle tone or muscle memory so they just stay out of alignment, which was the problems with her hips and the reason behind the lack of pooping. MIND BLOWN!

How’s Kennedy doing now?

Like I said, it really feels like someone swapped out the Screaming Kennedy for the Kennedy we have now. She’s smiling & cooing, things that didn’t regularly happen before, and she’s content to just sit in her bouncer or on the floor while I cook dinner or get ready for the day. Those may sound like nothing, but when it’s been 2 months of constantly consoling a child who only stopped crying to sleep (in 2 hour increments, mind you) those are BIG moments. Granted, she’s still a newborn so it’s not all rainbows and kittens. But she’s better and not in pain anymore and really that’s all that matters.

 

Today, Kennedy has her 1-week follow-up appointment with Dr. Prater and I’m anxious to see how it goes. I’ll be sure to update tomorrow!