Adventures in Fatherhood- “Tongue Tied and Can’t Even Talk Yet-or- So Long Mr. Frenulum”

One of the things that no one tells you in preparation for the birth of a child is, “Get ready to spend a ridiculous amount of time in a doctor’s office.” This is not because your baby is unhealthy, but because between postpartum visits, pediatrician visits, and visits to any specialists you’ll be spending a lot of time reading old issues of People Magazine in waiting rooms.

Liam’s checkups have all been great. He’s gaining weight, has absolutely no jaundice, and is generally the most advanced child that every medical professional who lays eyes on him has ever seen :-). Unfortunately, he was born with a relatively minor, and easily correctable defect. The small piece of tissue below his tongue, called the frenulum, was too long. Basically it was too short so that he could hardly stick his tongue out. This can sometimes impede speech later in life and, in the case of Liam, make it hard for him to eat.

Short Frenulum-Tongue Tie- Ankyloglossia

Well, Liam, like any pet…I mean, baby…needs to eat. Unfortunately, it seems that many doctors aren’t trained to take care of tight tonuge frenulums (also called ‘tongue tie’). The lactation consultant in the hospital said that midwives back in the day, when they encountered tongue tie in a newborn, used to just reach into the infants mouth and cut it with their finger nail. That’s how simple this thing has historically been to take care of. Well, the pediatrician at the hospital said to just wait and fix it when Liam was older. Neither Laura nor I were fond of this idea. Why? 1. It was making it hard for him to eat. 2. It will be much less traumatizing to take care of it now since the kid has the memory of a gold fish.

So we got a list of doctors from the lactation consultant who would do the procedure. We contacted an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist with whom we set up an appointment. Yesterday we took the punklet to visit the specialist and, sure enough, the ENT recommended clipping the frenulum. He said it wasn’t the worst case he had ever seen, but that he could take care of it in just a few seconds.

Since my wife gets squeamish at the sight of blood, I put Liam on his back in my lap and held his lower lip open so the ENT could do his job. That’s right, I assisted in surgery. I bet you didn’t know you could do that with an M.Div! The ENT took a very small pair of scissors that almost looked like scissor style nail clippers. I held Liam’s lower lip open and the ENT made a few quick snips. Within thirty seconds it was all done. There was some blood and Liam cried his heartbreaking little cry that any parent of an infant will know. The cry that says, “Why are you letting the mean man with scissors hurt me, Daddy?”

Thankfully, the difference was almost instantaneous and Liam was a real trooper. Even though we had to go from the ENT to get a state mandated heel stick blood test done (yes, the kid had a rough day yesterday), he cried for a bit and then calmed down. His tongue has far more mobility so we know having the frenulum clipped was the right decision.

By way of closing I’ll say this. It’s really interesting how quickly Laura and I have learned Liam’s crys. His hungry cry is distinct. His sad/hurting cry is easy to distinguish and definitely turns my heart into a gelatinous mass. Liam may have been tongue tied. He may not have been able to talk, but it’s amazing to me how much he can say just with his little eyes, grunts, and cries.

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3 thoughts on “Adventures in Fatherhood- “Tongue Tied and Can’t Even Talk Yet-or- So Long Mr. Frenulum”

  1. Caleb, I was born tongue-tied. A little speech therapy in elementary school cleared up the speech issues. Glad things are well.

  2. Thanks for the story. I am worried that my daughter is tongue-tied and it is affecting my ability to breastfeed. Your story was informative and made me feel less worried about having surgery on such a small thing.

    1. Glad it helped! It seems that many doctors don’t catch it so it can lead to a lot of frustration for moms who are trying to breastfeed. It is sad that something that is so easy to correct is so often missed and can lead to moms who stop breastfeeding out of frustration.

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