Tongue Tied

Heather Dessinger

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Tongue Tied

I once confided in a friend that Micah prefers sucking his thumb to nursing. “Oh yeah, my boy is like that,” she told me. “I nurse him until he’s sleepy and then he pops his thumb in to finish the job.”

So I let it be.

Something didn’t feel right, but I was juggling life with two little ones and excuses were just so easy to find.

Excuse #1 – He’s just a lazy nurser . . . a typical laid back second born.

Excuse #2 – I’m comparing him to my experience with my daughter and they are different babies.

At nineteen pounds he’s not exactly malnourished, but he never rolls back his eyes with satisfaction as he gulps down milky goodness. That bothered me, so when I ran out of excuses I called Mellanie from For Babies Sake. Mellanie immediately pug me at ease with her warmth and kindness, which was a plus because the next thing she did was ask to see my boob.

Turns out the reason my little man looks like he’s doing calculus while he nurses is that it’s hard for him. He has a tongue tie that went undiagnosed for FIVE MONTHS, which means he really has to concentrate to get any nourishment.

On the night I found out about it I sat on the floor and cried my heart out. That sounds overly dramatic, I know, but I really did. I’m so grateful that he’s otherwise uber-healthy and that this can be corrected, but I thought he hadn’t comfort nursed for the last five months because he didn’t want to . . . not because he can’t.

This Thursday Daddypotamus and I are taking him to an ENT in Dallas in hopes that he will agree to do a frenectomy (cut the little flap of skin that’s holding Micah’s tongue down.)

He has never experienced the satisfaction of a deep latch and a flood of sweet milk, but I am giving him what I can. Fortunately, he’s compensated well and is not underweight. Still, I can’t wait to get this corrected so he can get the comfort he’s been missing out on. (On the other hand I’m totally freaking out that someone is going to go near my baby with a knife. My mama heart aches at the though of that!)


The revision with the ENT actually made things worse. Micah developed scar tissue that actually restricted his tongue and lip more, and we were not instructed properly about how to care for the area after the procedure.

The good new is that we had it revised with a laser a few months later and it made a HUGE difference for us. Micah went from waking every two hours to nurse because he couldn’t keep his belly full to sleeping long stretches, and I feel human again.

I’ve written more about the differences between the scissor method and the laser method here if you’re considering either one, and I’ve also written an informal guide to identifying tongue and lip ties at home.

Click here for a guide to identifying tongue and lip ties at home.

Update #2

We’ve also discovered that I have the MTHFR gene mutation, which according to some estimates affects about 50% of the U.S. population. MTHFR (yes, I know how it sounds!) is related to how the body processes folate, which is essential for proper midline development. Since tongue and lip ties are a midline defect and I ate plenty of folate during my pregnancy, I believe Micah’s midline defect is probably related to MTHFR. In addition to the beginners guide you can find here, I’ve also covered some of the most frequently asked questions about MTHFR here.

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

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52 thoughts on “Tongue Tied”

  1. Poor little man! Henry Boy still does it occasionally and loves his thumb. Hope your appointment goes well and he gets it all fixed!

  2. Oh my gosh Heather—this is EXACTLY what Lexi had!! Undiagnosed for almost 3 months…and really the only reason why we figured it out this early is because it was so bad it had led to our yeast/thrush issue. I went to the Dallas Group and had the frenectomy done—it was much less painful on me ( HA!) than I expected! As you know–Lexi had stopped latching before we had this done so we knew this was our last ditch effort at getting her to ever latch again. Our situation was different because she had already developed total aversion to the breast from how bad it was for her and I think from my trying SOOO much to get her back on…so I am soo thankful you guys have caught this and are getting it done before Micah hit this place!! I loved the office in Dallas–the main guy that Mellanie recommends was not available to do ours so we had his partner do it and I LOVED him. He was so gentle with Lexi ( and me!) and encouraged us to nurse immediately to stop any bleeding and comfort her. I think you will be pleased with the experience as scary as it sounds. Praying this is your solution! I have done so much research on the “un-diagnosed tongue tie” ever since this and found out its much more common than we realize!

    • Lesley – I had never even heard of a tongue tie until you mentioned Lexi’s. Now that I know it is hereditary all future children will be welcomed into the world with me shouting “Check baby’s tongue. I want to nurse!!!”

      Thanks for your thoughts on the procedure. Dr. B’s nurse talked with me extensively yesterday. I was impressed by how much time she was willing to spend with me considering I hadn’t committed to an appointment.

  3. ugh. being a mom is SO hard – i struggle with being the obsessive “i’m doing everything wrong” parent and the laid-back “they’ll be fine” parent – the latter found Myles and i at the pedi’s office on Friday with an eczema outbreak that turned into a staph infection (thankfully not MRSA, just regular staph) – Dr. Mommy had initially diagnosed it as Fifth’s Disease – where do i collect my Mother of the Year plaque?
    don’t beat yourself up about it – sweet Micah is happy and healthy and it’ll only get better after the frenectomy – i’ll be praying for you guys!
    oh, and maybe my favorite quote will be of some help to you – i apply it to Mommyhood on a regular basis – “You did then what you knew how to do, And when you knew better, You did better.” – Maya Angelou

    • Poor Myles! . . . but that actually does make me feel better, so thank you. 🙂 The award office contacted me about my nomination for NRH Mother of the Year, so maybe we can ride together to pick up our plaques. 🙂

      P.S. I love Maya Angelou.

  4. Heather,
    I don’t know if I’ve commented before, but I do enjoy reading your blog. I recently had the frenulum cut on my now 3 month old. My firstborn was tongue-tied (not enough to prevent her from getting what she needed or nursing for comfort, but I think it made for a lot of short, frequent nursing) and I didn’t know about getting it cut until she was much older. When I noticed it on my third, we got it clipped right away. IT WAS SO EASY! I couldn’t believe it. He barely cried and it was so fast. With us, they numbed it a bit and then held the tongue up with two q-tip things and then clipped it with what looked like cuticle scissors. Super easy, I almost wish I had just done it myself and saved myself a trip out with a newborn! And then afterwards, the nursing has been much easier! So I guess I want to encourage you that it will be quick and easy (not as easy as with a newborn, of course, but still, quick!) and maybe he’ll still like his thumb, but at least you’ll know it isn’t because his tongue is tired!

    • Thank you, Sarah! You are a sweetheart for taking the time to comment with a three month old in the house. I am so glad you had a good experience and I hope ours is just like it!

  5. my little guy was tongue tied — and getting him clipped at 11 weeks was so easy and while he did have to re-learn how to nurse that just took a couple of tries and we lived happily ever after! 😉

  6. dianthe- that’s a great quote! don’t let yourself feel guilty heather! you are one of the most loving moms i know, and i mean that.

    julia was tongue-tied, but it was visible at birth. the lactation consultant at the hospital pointed it out, which explained why she had a heart-shape at the end of her tongue. i just thought it was cute!

    julia had medicaid and her pedi wouldn’t do the surgery so the only place we could go was really, um, not suitable. so we waited till she got on riley’s insurance after a year. she was able to nurse, but was always in the bottom percentile. that may have been partly due to me trying to stick to a schedule, but it did take forever for her to finish a feeding and it was VERY painful the first few weeks, probably because of the tight frenulum. we got it done by dr bauer at ent for children in coppell when she was 18 mos. at that point she wasn’t nursing very often anymore but after the surgery her talking increased dramatically. i wonder what her speech would’ve been like had we not done it!
    i was so afraid for her going under the knife (and anesthesia) but it was over in what felt like a minute, and she was absolutely fine! no complications afterward at all. i’m glad we had it done and vowed to do it right away with future children if needed (josiah didn’t).

    thanks for sharing. after reading lexi’s and micah’s stories, i bet more moms will be on the watch out for these hard-to-notice issues!

    • Wow, Joanna, I am SO IMPRESSED that you stuck with bfing now that I know the whole story! I have a whole new respect for moms that push through in these kinds of circumstances. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. When I was a La Leche League Leader/Lactation Consultant, I saw this more than I would have imagined. (Here is one of many good articles, in case anyone wants to read more..)

    It is important for babies to be checked at birth – it is a cause for a lot of poor latching/poor weight gain/sore nipples/delayed speech/speech impediments, even. It is also surprising how often it goes undiagnosed, and I used to wonder how many women who thought they couldn’t produce enough milk or that their babies fought the breast/preferred the bottle were actually struggling with this issue and didn’t know.

    It is GREAT that you found a doc who will take care of this for you. I remember twenty-something years ago, when I was helping some moms with this, they had to look far and wide for someone who would clip the frenulum. I knew a pediatrician in Austin years ago that would always check the boys he was circumcising and snip the mouth at the same time, as well, if he saw it. Sad, I know, but at least he was willing, which was pretty impressive at the time. One dentist I talked to about one of my clients said that the reason it doesn’t cause more problems with speech is that most children will either stretch it out eventually with use, or it will tear, like when they take a hard fall, and the parents aren’t usually aware. He was not concerned if they couldn’t breastfeed and would only recommend the procedure if they weren’t speaking correctly by the time they started school. Weird, huh? And frustrating, at the time.

    Anyway, SO glad you are getting this taken care of! I think you will be REALLY happy with the results. I can totally relate to the “oh my gosh, if only I had known” feeling – we’ve all been there in one area or another (and if someone hasn’t, they will be), so embrace your growth and knowledge and keep walking this path with joy. It is long, and there are always more things to learn! Will definitely be praying for you guys Thursday! And, Hurray! for docs who care enough to help.

    • Tana – I thought exactly the same thing about mom’s who have low supply. Now that I know how common this problem is I will definitely be telling new moms to check it out if they are having problems. Or experienced moms, really . . . I wasn’t a new mom and this totally snuck up on me.

      And yes, YAY for compassionate doctors. The specialist we’re seeing is making special arrangements for us because of Micah’s age.

  8. @ Lesley. Me, too : – )

    @Julie – Thank you for sharing your experience! Micah is past the normal age that this procedure gets done but I’m hoping for our own happily ever after. I love nursing my babies!

  9. When I breastfed my daughter she took her time in the first few months and then at about 3 months she became a speed demon and would finish in less than 5 minutes! I dont think it was a tongue-tied issue though. I did check her tongue today…just to make sure! This is good information to know for future children!

    Wlhat a cute video of Micah! Happy little fella 🙂

  10. Heather, I will be praying for you and Micah on Thursday. I know it will be hard, but the payoff will be so sweet. He will be excited to find out what he has been trying so hard to get. My sweet girl still nurses (I really think I should really think about weening her.) and I love every moment of it. I don’t think I will have any more kids, so I am really relishing every baby moment I have with her, and those are quickly fading.

    Have a blessed day and a restful Wednesday.

    • Thank you, Amy. I hope to have more children and yet I find myself relishing this baby phase with Micah even more than I did with Katie. Back then it was hard to believe the sleepless nights would ever end . . . now I know how quickly it goes by and I am loving (almost) every minute of it.

  11. Piper had this same thing and we waited till she was 6 months to get it done. It was soo fast, and she did great. Bring a favorite toy for him to hang on to. ( I didn’t and Piper grabbed the sterile package and wouldn’t let go for over an hour. At least it was sterile, but we got funny looks at target later). We weren’t allowed to go back with her, which really freaked me out, but our Dr said that babies freak out when parents are in the room. It only took like 5 minutes, and she had stopped crying by that time. I just got to enjoy the extra snuggles.
    I was afraid she would have trouble nursing after that, but she latched right on, and I got to see the sweet look on her face of being satisfied. She was always a great nurser, but then she was AWESOME!!! Sounds like he likes nursing, and I think it is helpful to wait Till they are 5 or 6 months old. She was more apt to go right back to nursing after, because she’d done it for so long. (The dr said younger babies have trouble nursing again). Your making the right choice, and he will do great! Way to listen to your mommy insticts!
    Praying for you guys!

    • Sarah – THANK YOU!!! I am so glad to hear from a mom whose older baby had this done. Thanks for the toy tip. Micah has a favorite monkey that will now be joining us.

  12. You and Daniel are wonderful parents and I am so glad you have found a physician you are confident in. I love and support you and I have thanked God in advance for a better than we could have ever hoped for answer and solution. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.
    Much love XXX

  13. Praying for you Momma! I’ve been on the floor crying with my babies too. You are a great momma and Katie and Micah are so blessed to be yours 🙂

  14. Oh heather, I don’t think it’s crazy you sat down and cried! I cried for you both just reading this. Bless your hearts. I am so glad it went well today!! Hugs

  15. Oh my goodness, what a buttercup! He’s so precious. It’s so fun to *see* him as he’s so close to Griffin’s age and they are doing the same things!

    Be gentle with yourself, my friend. He’s CLEARLY thriving and trust that you found out *exactly* when you and Micah were supposed to. God’s in charge and He knows what he’s doing :).

    I’ll be praying for you guys. I know a friend who had this done for her son and it worked out great.


  16. I’m sorry I missed this post until now Heather. Today is Thursday and I hope everything went well for all concerned. Let us know!

  17. My husband’s little brother was tongue-tied. They were told in the hospital that the operation was going to be a big deal – expensive, scary, I don’t know what all. But the family lives kind of in the boonies, and there’s a country doctor down the road, and they took the baby to him (for a second opinion?) and he said, “Oh yeah. That’s easy.” And snipped it right then and there. Gabe’s been fine ever since, and now that relieving anticlimax is a family story. Of course, I’m telling this vaguely and third-hand, so I’d love to get the details on how it went for you and Micah.

    • It is a relatively simple procedure for newborns because the nerve ending haven’t fully formed and they’re easy to hold still. Because he was older, Micah had to endure more discomfort, bled more and was more difficult to keep still (putting a five month old under anasthesia has risks and Is VERY expensive, so we had to keep him awake and swaddle through the procedure).

      Maxillary ties are more difficult. They can’t be snipped because it will just create scar tissue that is thicker and tougher than the original tie. These days a few docs have lasers, which increase healing time and minimize scar tissue, which is why we have to fly to New York to have it done.

  18. My oldest son was tongue tied when he was born, and it went undiagnosed. I’m still SHOCKED that no one ever looked at it. His tongue was very “heart-shaped”. I had to use a nipple shield the whole time I nursed him, because he would never latch on properly, even after the little procedure. It is genetic, and we found out my father-in-law was tongue tied when he was born too.

  19. I am surprised you didn’t mention the PAIN of nursing a babe with the terrible tongue-tied latch. My daughter and son both had this, it only took 2 days of nursing before I knew DD had a “tight frenulem”. How did I know? I was was born with a SEVERELY tight frendulem, requiring TWO frenulectomies. My mother was unable to nurse. She thought there was something wrong with her ability to make milk. Untrue! I was unable to stimulate her milk production. She also thought it was REALLY painful to nurse. Untrue! It was just I was unable to latch correctly. Thank goodness for formula because I was losing weight left and right and was almost hospitalized. (Which would have bankrupted by parents at the time!) Long story short, this is VERY common but with the over-use of formula and decrease in breastfeeding, this condition is not diagnosed or if/when it is noticed the mother already has the kid on formula, feeling like a breastfeeding failure. Back when a baby’s sheer survival depended on the ability to nurse you will find frenulectomies were quite common.
    It is an out patient procedure. My ped. did it in the office with a sterile scissors. They did it in the hospital with my son the first day he was born. (I demanded it!) Good luck and your son will thank you when he is older when he can lick an icecream come or french kiss (haha) neither I do. lol (My parents would actually order me ice cream cones and then laugh at me trying to eat it. Nice.

    • Wow, that is so sad about you and your mom! But you’re right, it’s a HUGE factor with “milk supply” issues. SO GLAD you knew what to do with your son!

      P.S. Having nursed a toddler throughout my pregnancy I didn’t notice any real discomfort even though my son was severely tongue tied. I think my body was just desensitized.

  20. Hey Heather!
    I spoke to you back in Jan. when we FINALLY realized my poor DD had a class IV lip tie. We got in fixed by Oser. Now here I am with a 4 month old and our problems are starting. Up until recently she has slept like a champ, pooped frequently and been just happy and so easy. So I decided to leave the tie be while things were so good – didn’t want to mess with success! As of late, she’s started waking at night, going days without pooping, and being fussy. I feel like my supply is going down. Guess its time to call Oser! She also sucks her fingers and looks like she’s doing calculus when she nurses! She’s never been milk drunk and would rather fall asleep sucking her fingers than nursing. It’s a 5 hr drive for us and she absolutely HATES the car seat. But I know it’ll be worth it in the long run.

  21. Being tongue-tied may be caused by mutations in the MTHFR gene. This gene is a factor in many congenital malformations of the midline, including neural tube defects and congenital heart defects. Read more on the website This gene codes for an enzyme that is active in folate metabolism. Remember how pregnant women are supposed to get plenty of folate? Well, if you have mutations in this gene, you have trouble using your folate, and taking folate as methyl-folate bypasses this step. This gene is a factor in many medical problems people deal with today, including depression, autism, alzheimers, allergies, autoimmune disease, and more. 2 of my siblings and I have mutations in both of our mthfr genes. My sister was tongue-tied.

  22. Hi Heather, I am so glad I stumbled across your website in my late night breast-feeding-web-surfing. After powering through 10 weeks of painful nursing, I am finally starting to get some answers. Within a few hours of reading several of your posts, I emailed Dr. Kotlow and returned to my lactation consultant. Both confirmed lip and tongue ties! We are seeing a specialist in a week, and hopefully getting this addressed at last. It amazes me that this is such a common issue, yet it took me specifically asking about it to discover it. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences on your blog!

    • I am so glad you’re finally getting answers, Emily! My third child was born about six months ago. We had his corrected right away, and it has made all the difference. I hope you see improvement as well. <3

  23. Hi,

    I came across this while googling tongue tie . My now 5 month old dd2 has been on a nursing strike for the last almost 2 months. She doesn’t latch 90% of the time , sometimes she latches and let’s go in few seconds… I have been dream feeding her all this time and thankfully she sleeps enough to make that a feasible option.

    She also prefers her thumb and in fact the thumbs sucking started about the same time as the strike.

    I have discovered that she has an upper lip tie , possibly a posterior tongue tie. Her pediatrician doesn’t think there is any tongue tie but I have my doubts. We are soon to see an ent specialist.

    She had not nursed for comfort on all this time and just seems scared/ uncomfortable regarding nursing.

    So I’m just bumbling along in hope of trying to find an answer…

    Did the revision help? Did your some still prefer the thumb? I read another comment by someone you know from way back in 2011 that their daughter had developed a breast aversion due to these issues…it seems very similar to what’s happening with us…

    I had nurses my dd1 for 18 months and had hoped to nurse this one even longer…. At this point I will be lucky if I can continue till she turns 1. A long 7 month haul….

    Thanks in advance!

  24. I came across this article while dealing with my own little baby with lip/tongue tie. My baby girl is my third baby and after two failed attempts at nursing, I made a vow to myself and baby that I’d do everything possible to nurse her for a year. All was going wel until 11 weeks when it started to hurt and my baby wanted to nurse every hour. I knew something wasn’t right when I developed cysts on my wrists from having to hold my boob in her mouth so she wouldn’t slide off. We had the procedure to clip her lip and tongue today. Hoping and praying all goes well from here on out

  25. Amazing post heather!! My three mos old is getting her lip and tongue ties released by laser in Katy, Tx. Kidstowm Dentsl is AMAZING. They combine an IBCLC with osteopathic treatment before getting the surgeries which are done with laser. Just wanted to share in case anyone in the Houston area is in need!

  26. I am a grandmother and never heard of tongue tie before this year. What is the contributor to the increase? I cannot be better diagnosis or identification is my guess but would like to know what are some of the theories. Love your blog by the way.

  27. My daughter was also tongue tied. I took the supplement you mention (rather than the more commonly-recommended folic acid…can’t remember exactly why…someone somewhere said “no, you need folate rather than folic acid”) for a while (maybe a year or two) before getting pregnant and all during my pregnancy, and she was still born with tongue and lip tie. I’m curious if there’s any hope in preventing it in our future children. I haven’t seen any discussion of that in my reading on the issue. But of course would be willing to do nearly ANYTHING to prevent that situation again. It was so difficult (and painful!).