As time went on and I started investing my time and efforts into healing our guts, I got involved with several online support groups for nursing mothers. I worked with our lactation consultants, who were very sweet, but just didn't know what they were dealing with. I met some like-minded and similar issued people. Two in particular were dealing with some of the same issues I had dealt with and their kids had tongue and lip ties. When they posted pictures of their kids mouths, I had a revelation: "That looks like my baby's mouth."
What's the big deal? There are plenty of BIG DEALS that come along with lip and tongue ties. To start with - it has been VERY difficult to breastfeed Bitsy. Where I only had a few weeks of soreness with the other two - I had four months of very, very uncomfortable feeds with Bitsy. I just pushed through. I breastfeed. It's just what I do. Secondarily - it can cause a poorly formed, super high palate. That can cause speech problems and texture issues. I could go on and on - but honestly, the list is so long! Sleep Apnea, Speech, Orthodontic issues, feeding issues, etc...all because of a membrane that is a little too long and too tight!
Please ignore Drengen's dirty nails. This is Bitsy's Lip Tie, pre-revision. It was SUPER thick and SUPER tight. Her palate is also quite high, due to the membrane under her tongue extending 3/4 to the tip.
This is the ENTIRE elevation of her tongue. It should reach the roof of her mouth while resting. See her toofers?! The white line at the bottom of her tongue is the membrane that was revised.
It took about four and a half months for nursing Bitsy to become tolerable. Since I was dealing with her messed up little intestines and the needs of the rest of my family, the tongue and lip ties just had to wait. However, I started doing research. I knew that this would eventually need to be addressed. I started communicating within a support group for tongue tied babies on Facebook. If anyone is interested, just send me an email and I will get you the information. In the mean time, we were also dealing with food intolerance and leaky guts. The mouth became an issue I was willing to put onto the back burner.
Enter teething. As soon as her little gums started to swell and prepare to erupt those cute little chompers, Bitsy's latch got really crummy. All of the pain and discomfort of her first four months came back within days. After a heart to heart with my husband, I knew I couldn't keep it up. It was too painful. I made a phone call to Dr. Lawrence Kotlow's office in New York. He referred us to Dr. Stacy V. Cole in Ft. Worth - about six hours from us and the closest provider who would use a laser and no general anesthesia. His office was able to get us in for consult and procedure within one week. It was a quick "get ready" period, but I took the appointment and made arrangements for my first solo trip in YEARS. With a baby. It was real. I was so relieved that the procedure would be done so quickly, but I also had so much learning to do in a short amount of time.
I spent several days reading every article I could get my hands on, talking to parents with experience, prepping my big kids for time away from me and doing lots and lots of praying. Wednesday afternoon of last week, I loaded up my baby girl and we drove to Ft. Worth. It was the first time in seven years I had travelled without my husband or without family to stay with.
The drive was pleasant. Bitsy slept for much of it. She's been fighting naps, so I was relieved. She literally napped for four of the six hours we were driving. It was a cloudy, rainy day and not too hot - perfect for driving. We arrived in Ft. Worth at exactly the wrong time - rush hour. Bitsy was hungry and I was tired, but we made it to our hotel and got our bearings. That evening, found my way to a Central Market. If you EVER have the opportunity to got to a Central Market, do it. It's an amazingly stocked grocery store that made me wish I lived in the urban sprawl (until I had to drive back to the hotel, anyhow). I stocked up some amazing lemonade apples, some delightful snacks that were perfect for our dietary restrictions and a huge salad. We went back to our room and Bitsy played while I chowed down.
Neither one of slept very well that night. It was a really different place - we live in the country with very light road traffic at night. That is just not the case where we were staying. It wasn't terribly loud, but between the loud air conditioner and the other different noises, it was a long night. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and got ready to hit the town before our appointment.
After making finding our way to Dr. Cole's office, we wandered around town and shopped a bit. We hit Babies on the Boulevard - totally adorable shop! I picked the girls up some adorable goodies and I got myself a new set of Hudson Chewbeads. I knew I needed to grab some lunch, so we headed back to Central Market for another salad. They were just that good. We went back to our room for a lunch break and a quick rest before our procedure. I nursed my little tongue tied/lip tied girl and said a few prayers. I knew we'd be in a different world when we came back in a few hours.
The last picture I took before we left for Dr. Cole's office.
I didn't take any pictures at the doc's office - I needed my hands! When we arrived, we finished filling out some paperwork, the receptionist took a "happy" picture of Bitsy and we waited a bit. It was a nice, cool comfortable office. Ft. Worth in the summer is NOT cool or comfortable. Just sayin'. Shortly, we were greeted by Erika. She helps Dr. Cole with all of the baby frenectomies. She talked to me about the procedure and what to expect. She also went over stretching the sites to prevent reattachment and aid in mobility. Dr. Cole came in and was very reassuring. They took some pictures of the inside of Bitsy's mouth. No small feat, there! Erika mentioned that she was a strong little thing! Dr. Cole was also really amazed that, even with the severity of her ties, she was a fat little critter!
When it was time to start the procedure, an extra dental assistant came in to help hold Bitsy still. They secured her in a Wombie blanket, passed eye protection all around and got to work. Dr. Cole did her tongue first. It was relatively quick. She did cry - but she had been given a local. Her crying was from being restrained and having stuff in her mouth. It didn't really bleed at all, thanks to the laser. Her lip was a little more complicated and took a few minutes. It did bleed some. Dr. Cole said that it was one of the worst that he has ever seen, owing to the super thick membrane that had her lip glued to her gums. The entire thing was a maximum of five minutes. As soon as they could, they freed her from the Wombie and handed her to me. She had settled down within a few moments. She couldn't nurse right away (though she tried, poor kid) but she wasn't terribly unsettled by that. We were out of the office within thirty minutes of the start of her procedure.
Since I knew she'd be sore in short order, I rushed us back to our hotel room and nursed her. It was much easier than I had expected and she did get a full feeding. Also worth noting? I wasn't sore. For about four hours, Bitsy seemed like she wasn't much bothered by her mouth. Just after I ate some dinner and managed to change my clothes, I noticed that she was getting fussy. Fussy turned into inconsolable. I dosed her with some acetaminophen. Keep in mind that she has grain sensitivities and that almost all over the counter meds are suspended in some sort of grain based (corn mostly) syrup. It was worth it. She was also starting to swell.
It took several hours, but she finally settled in. She refused to nurse from about 7 that night until around 1 o'clock the following morning. Dr. Cole called to check in with us at around 9. I expressed my concerns and he assured me that she was behaving very normally and to keep doing what I was doing! We started stretching the surgical sites the next morning, per Dr. Cole's instructions. That was interesting. It still is. I know it can't really be "painless," but I don't really feel like she's much more than irritated. We will continue stretching until the white patches around the surgical sites have turned pink.
Swollen little Bitsy, still happily playing!
She did drool quite a bit for a few days after the procedure.
Bitsy happily nursed and went about her morning while I packed up our stuff. We were out the door and headed to Costco by 11:00. We made a mad dash to gather up our Costco stock (we don't like near one, but every time we're close - we get our favorite Costco goods!) and get a quick lunch. I really wanted to hit nap time so that she wouldn't be stuck in the car awake all afternoon. After a salad for me and a quick nursing session, we hit the road. After an uneventful drive home (minus the construction in DFW!) we pulled in our driveway to three very happy-to -see-us people!!
Since the revision, we've dealt with some soreness and swelling, but she was generally back to normal in short order.
WARNING: IF YOU DON'T LIKE PICTURES OF STUFF LIKE SURGICAL SITES, STOP HERE!!
Dr. Cole requested that I email him some pictures on Monday so that he could check our progress. Since it was a six hour drive, a follow up would be sort of impractical. This was the best option. I will also be sending in some more pictures tomorrow. As you can see - it looks gross. However, the thought of the work she would have to have if we had left it intact is far more gross to me! These were taken on Monday morning. You can see the decrease in swelling and the actual sites where the laser cut the membranes.
Sweet pie all swaddled so we can stretch!
It has been six days since the revision. I've noticed that my milk supply is up, she is feeding faster and emptying better. Her suck/swallow pattern is MUCH longer than it used to be. If that's all we ever got out of this procedure, I would do it again in a heart beat. I wish I had done it much sooner. If you have ANY questions, feel free to comment or email me. Having children with a lip and tongue tie issue can be nothing or it can really be something!