My daughter suffered long lasting oral aversion following laser treatment for tongue-tie.
When my daughter was born I had trouble breastfeeding from the get go. I was in so much pain that I literally saw stars and almost fainted every time she latched on to my breast. At around five weeks, after we’d had thrush twice already and my baby’s weight had dropped from the 75th to the 10th percentile, I saw a lactation consultant. Through that time I was topping up feeds with bottles of formula as my baby’s output suggested she was not getting enough breast milk.
The damage to my nipples was awful and the lactation consultant (LC) diagnosed a lip-tie and a posterior tongue-tie in my baby. She told me that I would not be able to properly breastfeed her unless I had her ties corrected. I was at a group assessment with eight other women and the LC diagnosed ALL of our babies with ties that needed ‘correction’. She gave each of us the contact information for two particular dentists. That week I discussed it with my doctor whose recommendation was not to put my daughter through this procedure but instead to switch to bottle feeding. As a first time mom, that felt like giving up and I had such a strong desire to breastfeed. So I went ahead and booked the laser procedure when my baby was six weeks old.
The dentist agreed with the LC’s assessment and stated the tongue-tie was so bad that it wrapped around to the back of her palate. He said the procedure would be super quick, around two or three minutes in total and that there was no need for analgesia or numbing cream. They swaddled my baby and applied eye protection and told me that I had to wait outside while they did the procedure. After 15 heart-breaking minutes, during which I had to listen to my baby’s screams, they finally came out. My baby was pale, floppy and not with it. I believe she had fainted from the pain she was in. Blood oozed from her mouth. I called out, ‘What’s wrong with her?’ The dentist suggested I comfort her with a breastfeed. She was too drowsy to latch on for some time but slowly her colour came back and she fed a little.
The dentist then told me about aftercare and I almost died when he played me some disturbing demos on YouTube of how to do the stretches. He pushed hard on my hand to show me the degree of force I was expected to apply. He said I should do these stretches on my baby every four hours in each 24-hour period, for four weeks.
Back home, my baby was inconsolable and would not breastfeed at all. I gave her Tylenol around the clock for three days. She would have nothing to do with the bottle and I had such a hard time getting her to breastfeed again. I refused to disturb her to do the stretches when she was asleep, although the dentist had recommended I wake her up to perform them. Every time I came near her she screamed and screamed in anticipation of these stretches. After two weeks, I felt like a monster and stopped doing this barbaric after ‘care’.
I spent the next three months syringe feeding, and cup and spoon feeding her because my daughter had developed such a severe oral aversion that she’d tolerate neither breast nor bottle.
Before reaching five months old, my daughter stopped eating altogether, was admitted to hospital, and had to be fed through a naso-gastric (NG) tube. She had the NG for three months while having regular visits with gastrointestinal specialists and a feeding team. But she just wouldn’t eat. She did begin breastfeeding again but I couldn’t get those top ups into her any other way than by NG. It took her a long time to start eating solids.
At 22 months she is still very guarded when it comes to eating. She touches everything on her lips first and examines food carefully before she decides if she wants to eat it. And she only eats certain things, most foods she won’t even try. There are days when she wants nothing near her mouth and will refuse to eat anything the entire day. We are still nursing but I’m told the ‘tongue-tie’ reattached, although I now have no pain when she breastfeeds.
I have since met three other mothers in my home town whose babies have also suffered oral aversion post tongue-tie release. I still suffer myself from anxiety and PTSD as a result of my daughter’s feeding issues. Every day I think about what I put her through and I carry such a burden of guilt as a result.
There are so many babies now receiving a diagnosis of tongue-tie and undergoing surgery for it. When parents are desperately looking for answers, they are incredibly vulnerable. And now I just have more questions.
You can read my well-referenced blog posts on tongue-tie here: