C has – or should I say had – a thick posterior tongue tie, which means the movement of her tongue is restricted, preventing her from getting enough milk. This, combined with a suspected cows milk intolerance, helps explain her reflux symptoms, poor latch, frequent feeding and slow weight gain.
This afternoon we’ve been at the clinic having her tongue tie released – a simple, quick and safe procedure involving a pair of scissors and not much else – which hopefully will improve her feeding. Despite concerns it would be a bit traumatic (for mum as much as C!), it was over in a flash, with C’s tears as much from having her head and arms held still whilst it was carried out as anything else. It’s too early of course to say whether it’s worked, but my fingers are tightly crossed.
Tongue tie has been in the news lately, as NCT (the national childbirth trust) are running a campaign to improve the identification and treatment of tongue tie in the UK. C’s tongue tie was a quite mild form but has still affected her ability to breastfeed, so with tongue tie present in an estimated 10% of babies it’s not too much of an assumption that the UK’s poor record at successful breastfeeding could be linked.
Our tongue tie experience has not been atypical. We had three separate people telling us she wasn’t tongue tied before she was finally diagnosed, evidence both that posterior tongue ties are difficult to spot, and of the lack of provision for diagnosing and treating tongue tie in the UK.
In fact we’re about even now, with as many health practitioners saying that she has a tongue tie and that it is impacting on her breast feeding, as we have those who say she’s not tongue tied and releasing it won’t have any effect. Even the consultant today was unconvinced it would make any difference, but having exhausted other options it made sense to go ahead with the procedure.
As it is we’ve had to go private to get it fixed. Luckily I’d already added C to the BUPA cover we get through work, as despite it being a quick and simple procedure, the wait on the NHS would likely take us beyond the point at which it can be dealt with without general anaesthetic (around 14 weeks). With delays like this it’s little wonder that many mums have to ‘give up’ breast feeding before the problem is remedied, even if they do succeed in getting a diagnosis in the first place.
Hopefully the coverage of the condition will improve awareness and outcomes, though I’m sure parents will still need to push to get the help they need.
We’ll know whether it’s been successful over the next few weeks, and in the meantime it’s a case of wait, feed, and wait some more. Or perhaps more accurately; feed, wait, and feed some more.
Best get ready for some sleepless nights…