By Kelsey Saintz
Simply put, tongue and lip ties occur when the frenulum – the string under the tongue or between the lip and gums – is too tight and the tongue or lips can’t move like they should. In the medical world, they’re part of the umbrella term “midline defects.” They are most notable in babies who are breastfed as it can cause nursing complications.
When Shannon Hurd had Allison 2 ½ years ago, she kept hearing about tongue and lip ties at the Mother’s Haven nursing group. So many moms talked about struggling with nursing, and getting ties clipped, and our former lactation consultant Alicia helped them through it.
“I don’t believe in the body’s innate ability to screw up so bad,” Shannon said to herself. “Is this just a fad?”
Fast forward to four months ago, when she gave birth to her second daughter, Sarah. The day after she was born, she told her mom that she got “the easy baby.” She never cried, was very easy to put down to bed – she lucked out. Three weeks went by, and Sarah began projectile vomiting. Shannon remembers it being like a hose. She started to get cranky and just wasn’t the same baby. “She could fart louder than most men,” she said.
She visited with her midwife, distraught. People were telling her Sarah was just a normal newborn, but Shannon knew there was something wrong. She suspected acid reflux.
Shannon met with Melissa Morgan, our lactation consultant, and showed her how Sarah nurses. Milk pooled around her mouth and her back arched – common signs of reflux. She also had a tongue tie and a major top lip tie. On top of that, Shannon had an overproduction of milk. Surprisingly, Shannon explained, all of these symptoms can easily be linked. When milk isn’t being transferred efficiently, like in the case of a tongue or lip tie, the mom’s body can try to compensate by making more milk. And struggling to nurse and swallow can cause acid reflux.
But the plot thickens. Shannon realized that her 2-year-old daughter Allison, her baby Sarah and herself all had midline defects. Local specialists didn’t agree with that conclusion, so Shannon packed up her girls and headed to a doctor in Portland who performs laser revisions. Shannon had a lip tie that broke as a teenager, but her tongue tie was still intact, and she has always dealt with TMJ and mumbled when she got excited or worked up about something. After she had it cut, she said, both issues improved 90 percent. Allison, Shannon's two year old daughter, didn’t talk much before, and when she did, it was monotone. The day after having her tongue and lip ties cut, she talked to her grandparents on the phone for a half hour. And baby Sarah’s demeanor changed greatly – she was able to burp and make bowel movements without struggling, and she also gained weight.
After visiting Portland, she explained her story to her dentist and midwife so that they can recognize cases like theirs and help other families in the future.
“I’m proud of my mama bear self,” she said. “I’m proud I kept going.”