As a lactation consultant, I have assessed many tongue ties. If I considered that an ankyloglossia existed, I would refer the family to specialists to make a definitive diagnosis and I always thought that in the long run it was best to release the tie.
Now, having gone through the process myself, I no longer know if I feel the same way. I’ll tell you why.
When Leah was born, I quickly saw that she had a short frenulum, specifically type 3. Which would be a sub-mucosal one and difficult to diagnose by pediatricians on the island. The latch was always good, but I repeatedly had mastitis, and I noticed that she did not empty the breast adequately. She gained weight very well, in fact in the first 2 weeks she gained 700g, thus a lot. But I’m sure that if she wasn’t Tandem breastfeeding with her sister, it would have been more difficult. I searched the whole island for a good doctor, but I did not find any clinic that gave me a good feeling. In the end, we decided to go to the Frelac clinic in Barcelona. The doctors at this clinic are some of the best and most up-to-date in all of Spain. A couple of days before the intervention they informed me that it would be without anesthesia, (In my training, they told me that anesthesia is always given) so I asked them why. They told me that they could use a topical one, but that it had a very bad and bitter taste and that the baby would react badly In addition, she would not latch well to the breast, something she should have to do a minute after the tongue release. They explained to me that until I started BLW, the nerves in the area are not yet fully developed and that she would not feel much pain. I agreed to do it without anesthesia. They were very professional and friendly, and the cut was only 10 seconds. Within half a minute I had her on top of me, looking at me with eyes of sadness and pain. Her expression will stay with me forever. Since her birth, I had never seen her cry so much. Horrible.
Afterwards, they interlined some massages that we had to do under the tongue so that the frenum would not close again. They told me that it would have to be done 5 times a day on top of the cut, for 1 minute for 2 weeks. Every time we did it, my daughter cried again in panic and pain. Honestly, I’ve only done it a couple of times these days. I just can’t handle putting her through more pain. I knew the theory about the tie release, but I lacked the practice.
Absolutely no one had explained to me that I would feel the pain that my baby was going through as if I were living it. Yes, it is logical, since the mother-baby union does not end after pregnancy. I feel what she feels and vice versa. Why isn’t the emotional aspect of cutting the tie talked about? Or any intervention? It’s like it’s taboo. But then it happens to you and you don’t know who to talk to about it, because you don’t know if others have gone through it. And I dare say from personal experience that we mothers are the ones who have to take responsibility and make the decision and be the ones who take our babies to do it. We have to give them the “massage” and watch videos of exercises with the tongue. Prepare to see our baby bleed for the first time. It’s crazy emotionally, and no one talks about it. I have not found a single article that describes this phenomenon.
The only thing I liked reading in the pages of both Alba Padrò and Carmen Vega (one of the best IBCLCs in Spain) is that if breastfeeding is going well, you can easily decide not to intervene and that it is a very personal decision. But that’s as far as it goes…
I don’t regret the decision. My brother had speech delays due to the short frenulum and he underwent surgery when he was 11 years old, requiring him to be put to sleep. I know it’s better before than later. But it does make me angry not to have known the emotional implications. If I could have talked about it earlier with other families who have gone through the same thing, heard professionals talk not only about post-frenectomy recovery, and read articles about the consequences of seeing your baby go through so much pain, perhaps I would have been better prepared. I think that in babies pain is always minimized and that the bond that exists between mother and baby is not taken into account.
The positive side is that my daughter is very happy to see what she can now do with her tongue that she couldn’t before. On the other hand, I will be able to accompany other families with a baby with ankyloglossia better and with more empathy. But definitely, there is a lack of empathy at a professional level.