Babywearing, Breastfeeding, and Tongue Tie

By Rachel Boarman

Babywearing has been a lifesaver with my third baby.  My daughter Ellie was born peacefully at home in June.  She was a healthy 8 pounds, 9 ounces and just beautiful.  We all adored her.

Well, most of us.  😛


However, from the first time she nursed something felt different.  It took me a long time to get her to latch well after she was born. The best way I could describe her latch would be to say it was slippery.  It was hard for her to get latched and harder for her to stay latched.  She’d unlatch several times during a feeding.    I chalked it all up to “all babies are different” and just went with it.

For the first week, she was nursing non stop practically.  She had screaming spells that lasted 2-3 hours at night where I was unable to get her to nurse well and needed to calm her down before she would nurse.  The only thing that would calm her was wearing her and walking around the house.  Once she was calm, I was able to get her to latch fairly well and nurse.

For the first week we were completely pampered.  My husband did everything around the house.  Friends, family, and neighbors brought food and helped us with the big kids.  But after that, life resumed.  When you’ve got 3 kids to take care of, you’ve got to keep moving.  Ellie nursed at least 20 times a day, every day.  Basically at least once an hour during the day, she needed to nurse.  So we nursed everywhere.  We got really good at nursing in a carrier and just nursed on the go. We nursed while reading stories, while making lunch, while hanging out at beaches, and going to the pool.  Nursing 20 times a day sounds exhausting, but thanks to babywearing, I was still able to meet the demands of my family and have some fun.
At my 6 week postpartum check up, my wonderful midwife watched Ellie nurse and said “Does she always make that clicking sound when she’s nursing?”  She did – her nursing was very noising with clicking, gasping, and sputtering.  I had again chalked it up to “all babies are different” and perhaps some over supply, but my midwife said that it might not be a problem, but sometimes clicking sounds while nursing can indicate a problem such as tongue tie.  Fast forward another two weeks and Ellie went to her two month check up.  We had moved and had a new pediatrician.   Ellie was only 11 lbs, 2 ounces, just about a pound over her weight at one month.  The pediatrician wasn’t concerned, but this new pediatrician didn’t have the previous weight numbers to use as a reference either.  I did though, and I was starting to become concerned.


As I watched Ellie nursing twenty times a day and now she was getting older, it started to dawn on me that perhaps this wasn’t all just “all babies are different.”  She was not a happy nurser and didn’t ever seem truly satisfied.  In really watching her nurse, I noticed that she took in milk during the letdown and after that I wasn’t hearing any swallowing.  In order to keep her swallowing, I used breast compressions and even hand expressed milk into her mouth.  While this was a lot of extra work, it was also easy to do fairly discretely thanks to babywearing!

Around the middle of the next month, I asked my friend (and fellow babywearing group volunteer) Summer, who is a lactation consultant if she could chat with me about my concerns.  I went in to see her.  We weighed Ellie and she was 11 lbs, 9 ounces.  At this point she was 2 months and 21 days old, so she had gained just 7 ounces in 21 days, about 1/3 of an ounce a day.    I nursed her for what felt like a very good feeding for her, about 20 minutes.  We weighed her again after the feeding and she had taken in 1.5 ounces. Summer took a look at her mouth and told me that she thought Ellie had a lip tie and posterior tongue tie.  She asked me to come back and see her colleague Trina for a second opinion just to be sure.  Trina agreed that there was a posterior tongue tie.

I set up an appointment with our pediatrician and began doing research.  I found some excellent information on the La Leche League website and a wealth of links on the Kellymom site.  I also stumbled upon a wonderful Tongue Tie Babies Support group on Facebook. 


I chatted with a friend of mine who is a La Leche League leader and got a recommendation for an ENT in Rockville MD  who is very knowledgeable about tongue and lip tie.  The pediatrician wrote us a referral to see the ENT.   We went in for a consult and the ENT released the frenulum right at that appointment.  The procedure was very quick.  Ellie was upset, but calmed as soon as I put her back in the sling.  After calming down in the sling, she nursed.  It was amazing the difference even just moments later.  Her nursing was quiet.  There was no clicking, gasping, pulling off, or losing her latch.  I was even hearing swallowing.  I was amazed.  She fell asleep nursing and we headed home.


(Picture taken while parked).

We had to drive all the way home from Rockville though (typically a two hour drive), and she only slept about an hour.  We stopped several times after she awoke because she was really unhappy.  I tried nursing her in the drivers seat during one of our stops, but she would have nothing to do with it.  The only thing that calmed her was wearing her.  So there I was parked on the side of the road, wearing my sweet baby in the drivers seat.   Once she was calm, she happily nursed again.  We stopped several times, and even visited another babywearing group volunteer friend, Rhy on our way back home.  While she was clearly uncomfortable after having her frenulum released, she was able to find comfort being worn.  I was so grateful to have babywearing as a tool.


The next day, we went back to visit Summer and do a weigh and feeding. While I was there Ellie didn’t nurse very well and was falling asleep while nursing.  She only nursed about 10 minutes, but she still took in three ounces.  A week later, we went back to the pediatrician for a weigh in.  Ellie had put on seven ounces in the seven days since the tongue tie procedure.  This was as much weight as she had gained in a full 21 days before the procedure.  The difference in her nursing is incredible.  She nurses far less frequently but I hear her swallowing for longer.  Her diapers are wetter (and poopier!).  She’s happier and sleeping a little less during the day, but more at night.   She’s starting to creep back up on the percentiles.  She’s 97th percent for height, but only 30th for weight.  Her height for weight percentile was 1% and is now up to 3% and climbing steadily.  Maybe soon she’ll have the chunky cheeks of a typical three month old.

Looking back on this experience, I can not imagine how it much more difficult it would have been without having babywearing as a tool.  Despite needing to feed her twenty times a day, I was able to keep up with my other children.  Because she was very frequently worn, it was easy for me to pick up on her hunger cues and respond instantly.   With at least one hand free, I could do breast compressions to help her take in more milk and I could also tend to the other demands of daily life.  Babywearing was her only comfort after the tongue tie procedure and what a relief to have a magical way of calming her.  I’m so grateful to have found this parenting tool.

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