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My Baby Was Born Tongue Tied : A Case Study

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 22 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Baby Tongue Tied Fretful Baby Suckling

“People look at me strangely when I say that my baby was tongue tied when he was born. Tongue tied is an expression that usually means someone has difficulty speaking, and everyone knows babies can’t speak”, laughs Jane.

Jane’s son Ruben is now 3 months old and is healthy and growing normally. When he was born, Jane insisted on having a natural birth so was very alert afterwards. She also wanted to start breastfeeding straight away to start off the process of bonding with her baby.

“I had a private room and was looking forward to just being with my son and my husband and us all getting to know each other. The idea I had in my mind was so far from reality that I became really upset and was crying constantly.

Problems Feeding

Instead of taking a few tries to get her baby to latch on, as Jane had expected, Ruben tried to find the nipple and take in milk but didn’t seem able to. He waved his arms wildly and cried in between attempts, eventually falling asleep because he was exhausted. “I had to stay in hospital until he was feeding well and 2 days later I was still there and being pressured to bottle feed him. Everyone was clucking around me and I felt like a complete failure,” says Jane.

Breast Feeding Advice

Everyone gave Jane different advice, which confused her even more. “I had breastfed my daughter, who is now 4, perfectly well and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working this time,” she remembers. Ruben was beginning to become a very fretful baby as his repeated attempts at suckling were still failing. He was getting some milk but not enough to satisfy him.

“I was in such a state that my husband spoke to the midwife and she suggested that a paediatrician have a look at Ruben to check that there was no underlying problem why he could not feed. The doctor checked him over thoroughly and finally he examined his mouth. Then he said something like – aaahh, now I see the problem – and he turned and showed me that Ruben had a tiny piece of skin attaching the bottom of his tongue to the inside of his mouth. Ruben was tongue tied,” explains Jane.

A Simple Operation

While feeling relieved that the cause of the problem had been found, Jane was in such a state by this time that she almost became hysterical when the paediatrician told her that Ruben would have to have an operation to free his tongue. “I imagined major surgery. My perspective was completely off and the doctor took my husband to one side to explain to him more about what was involved while I was violently sick. I felt terrible,” says Jane.

Later that afternoon, Jane’s husband explained to her that the operation was going to be very simple and quick and it didn’t even require an anaesthetic. “The doctor had said that most babies have the operation when they are asleep and they don’t even wake up. I started to feel better and everything was arranged for the tongue tie to be released at 4pm. When it happened, I didn’t know why I had worried. It took about 10 seconds and Ruben was handed to me to feed. He was crying a bit – but then he was very hungry. As I brought him to my breast, his eyes opened as he started suckling, as if he was surprised that it was all working well at last!” says Jane.

Breast Feeding Normally

Ruben took the best feed of his life so far and then settled to sleep for 3 hours, also the longest sleep of his life so far. “From then on, we never looked back but I had no idea that babies could be born tongue tied. None of the midwives or nurses had thought of checking either. If there was more awareness of this as a potential problem, a lot of new mums could avoid the distress I had to go through,” concludes Jane.

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