‘I feel guilty we didn’t spot my daughter’s tongue tie sooner’

UK mum-of-one Natasha Rigler shares her first-hand experience of having a baby with a tongue tie.

From the second she was placed in my arms, Molly seemed clueless about breastfeeding. The midwives all stood perplexed as her little head bobbed up and down, unable to get a latch, and no one could explain what was going on.

During our first night as new parents, my husband and I were handed a little purple syringe and shown how to extract that all-important colostrum (first milk) before dropping it into her mouth. I can’t say it was something I had never envisaged us doing together.

Molly’s feeding issues didn’t go unnoticed, and we were kept in hospital for three days. During that time, I was given a pair of silicone nipple shields to aid Molly’s latch and, as she appeared to begin feeding, we were sent home.

Given that I was a first-time mum, I had no idea that excruciating pain wasn’t normal, and during one feed, I noticed lots of blood mixed in with my milk. I also didn’t realise that a baby shouldn’t be clamped to your breast for up to 12 hours nonstop. But if Molly wasn’t, she would just scream and scream.

Molly failed to put on weight and, despite daily visits from midwives, there was no explanation for her feeding issues.

There was clearly a big problem, but instead of trying to dig deeper into the issue, the midwives would simply try to get her to latch, fail and then tell me to ‘keep trying’ before leaving. During one visit, my exasperated husband asked how on earth I was supposed to do it if they couldn’t.

No one mentioned tongue tie. My baby wasn’t gaining weight and, given the NHS’s stance on breastfeeding, formula was never suggested. I felt so miserable, alone and completely exhausted.

Finally, nine days after Molly was born, a breastfeeding consultant visited and immediately diagnosed a severe tongue tie. She was astounded that, out of all the midwives we had seen, no-one had spotted it.

Molly was immediately booked in for a tongue tie division the following day and the relief I felt was overwhelming.

But despite the procedure, things failed to improve.

Even though it had only been 10 days, it all seemed too late for Molly. Once she’d had her tongue tie snipped, we were ushered into a private room to feed her. But she just didn’t know what to do. I barely had any milk, as breastfeeding hadn’t been established, yet was told to express into a bottle and feed her. It was impossible.

Once home, I made the decision to switch to formula and, for the first time since she was born, Molly slept well and began to put on weight.

It was such a hard decision, but I was so stressed and Molly wasn’t thriving, and when she was placed on those scales and the dial rose by a few ounces, I knew I had absolutely done the right thing.

The NHS are such huge advocates of breastfeeding, yet I feel completely and utterly let down. If Molly’s tongue tie had been spotted at birth, it would’ve avoided so much stress and worry – not to mention my guilt for switching to formula.

I specifically recall one day, when we had driven Molly to meet my family. The journey took several hours yet her nappy was bone dry when we got there. Looking back, she was clearly dehydrated. It makes me feel physically sick when I think about it now.

This story first appeared on Closer Online

What is tongue tie?

Tongue tie – known medically as ankyloglossia – is where the strip of skin between a baby’s tongue and the floor of their mouth is shorter than usual and almost cord-like. This can have a big impact on breastfeeding, as it can restrict the movement of the tongue and mean a baby is unable to open its mouth wide enough to latch.

It’s often more common in boys (about 60 per cent) and there may be a family connection.

What are the symptoms of tongue tie?

A baby with tongue tie is likely to have trouble latching onto the breast and even a bottle. As a result, they can struggle to gain weight.

The baby may also suffer from wind, as they can take in too much air, and they can either fall asleep before the end of a feed or feeds can last well beyond the average 20-45 minutes.

The mother can also experience pain when feeding and, as breastmilk is supply on demand, can find it difficult to get a good supply going.

If left untreated, in some cases the baby can go on to suffer speech problems later in life.

How is tongue tie treated?

Once diagnosed, babies with tongue tie can be treated with a simple procedure called a division or a ‘snip’. Trained medics simply cut the tight cord, and the procedure takes just seconds. Although there can sometimes be a small amount of blood, the operation is thought to be relatively painless due to a lack of nerve-endings in that area.

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