When Chelsea Hall’s baby, Selah, was diagnosed with a tongue tie at two months old, they had a surgical release done right away, but they didn’t see the results they were hoping for.
“The tongue tie grew back and grew back stronger. Her symptoms continued — fussiness, gas from swallowing a lot of air, not eating full feeds, overall body discomfort. She was just on edge,” says Chelsea.
Before getting another release, her pediatric dentists recommended trying craniosacral therapy, and so they began the process two weeks before the second revision was scheduled.
“We did two weeks of working with Kelly twice a week. We went back to have the release, and right away, she was a lot more comfortable. She fed right away. She was sleeping through the night,” said Chelsea. “We continued doing craniosacral after the release. The recovery process has been so much smoother and so much more successful.”
We see a lot of families in this situation. Problems with breastfeeding led to a diagnosis of a tongue tie. A provider offers a quick laser or scalpel revision and sends them on their way. Only the problems they were having — painful breastfeeding, fussiness, lack of weight gain, gas and reflux — don’t go away. Many families are left frustrated and hopeless. What to do now?
If you’re facing a tongue tie revision that didn’t work or didn’t resolve your baby’s symptoms, or regretting you ever had it done, there is hope. It’s going to require some work and a team of folks to help you. But we have helped many families work through it and find relief! Read on to learn more about why a revision might have failed to resolve symptoms and what can be done now to get the results you were looking for.
Tongue Tie Regret: Why Didn’t My Baby’s Tongue Tie Revision Work?
Maybe you know someone whose baby got a tongue tie release, and it worked right away! The release resolved whatever symptoms the baby was experiencing, and the family was happy. It does happen. Some babies may already have the mobility needed and a good sucking instinct in place, and the tissue release is all they need to move forward. But, we often see parents whose babies are struggling, disappointed that the release didn’t seem to help.
When a release doesn’t resolve symptoms, in the majority of cases, it can be because proper work hasn’t been done to prepare a baby’s body for the release. In fact, without the proper preparation, a release can actually make the symptoms worse!. Baby goes home in pain, more fussy, crying non-stop and unable or unwilling to breastfeed or take a bottle. Parents are pulling their hair out in despair!
Most often, we see that a revision doesn’t resolve symptoms because the baby’s body wasn’t ready for a release, both in terms of strength and mobility. However, some providers either aren’t aware of the necessity of this or don’t inform their patients.
Imagine having your leg in a cast for months. While you’re unable to move it, the muscles you may have had begin to atrophy. Your flexibility has waned. The day you get your cast off, you probably wouldn’t be ready to run a marathon or do a cartwheel. You’d need time to strengthen and stretch, accustom your leg to moving again and slowly work to get it functioning well again. Just like any surgery usually comes with physical therapy to help the body adjust, a tongue tie usually requires support as well.
For a baby that has a tongue tie, their tongue has been restricted their entire lives. It hasn’t had the opportunity to stretch or strengthen. In addition, the tension in their tongue extends to their entire midline fascia. Tongue tie babies often sleep in a C-shape with their arms over their head. They seem uncomfortable in their bodies and have tension. Torticollis or a head turning preference are common. Their body has been stuck in one default position, even in the womb!
When the tongue tie is released without care for oral training and body tension, the tongue is still weak and inflexible. It doesn’t have the strength and mobility necessary to make the motions needed for successful breastfeeding. Now suddenly it’s untethered, and the tongue can be lost and disorganized. Worse yet, we haven’t resolved the tension in the hips, shoulders, neck or head. So baby is still feeling just as uncomfortable in their body. Add to that the pain a baby is feeling post surgery, and it’s no wonder why they seem fussy!
In other cases, a release can be done by a provider who doesn’t have much experience and may be done incorrectly or not release the tissue sufficiently enough. Unfortunately, we see releases that have been botched, causing pain and scar tissue, when not done by someone with the right training or experience. If you are local to Grand Rapids or West Michigan, we have many providers we can recommend who we have worked with that can help you a
Unfortunately, many parents in this situation feel like they’ve been duped. Maybe their baby didn’t even have a tongue tie, they think. This situation has even caused some people to say that tongue ties aren’t real, that they’re a fad made up by medical providers in order to charge for services. Tongue ties are real, and a release or revision is very often part of the treatment for them. We just need to make sure we look at the whole picture in order to get the optimal outcome.
Tongue Tie Not Resolving After Revision: What Do I Do Now?
If this is your situation, don’t despair. While there’s not a quick fix, there is a way forward. Within a few weeks of treatment, you may find yourself in an entirely different and more hopeful feeling place.
When it comes to treating a tongue tie, we recommend a team approach. Depending on your baby or child and their symptoms, as well as your access to care, your team might include:
a pediatric dentist
a lactation consultant (preferably an IBCLC with knowledge of tongue ties)
a craniosacral therapist
a speech language pathologist
a myofunctional therapist
an occupational therapist
If a tongue tie release failed to resolve symptoms for you or your baby, it likely has to do with the strength and mobility of their tongue or unresolved tension throughout their body. Craniosacral can help release the tension in their mouth, head, neck and spine that is keeping them from using their tongue properly, and also from feeling safe, comfortable and relaxed in their body. It also helps regulate the nervous system, which can go a long way both in recovery from a tongue tie and just feeling happier and more relaxed. Read more about how craniosacral can help your tongue tied baby. To help build strength and function, we refer our families to other professionals that we work with regularly who have the expertise to help them.
When we start off with a baby before a release has been done, the team of providers is generally looking for the baby to meet some milestones before being cleared for a release. Some of those milestones can be tongue mobility, reduced tension, good sucking patterns and a general increased sense of calm. When all of those goals have been met and a release is still recommended, we give the all clear to move ahead, often collaborating closely with the pediatric dentist doing the release. Then after a release, we plan extra support for the baby’s body to adjust to the new tongue mobility.
We were recently working with baby whose parent thought that getting a release sooner would mean faster and better outcomes. Although she wanted to get a release done on her baby right away, we encouraged her to wait one more week to get body work in and meet the milestones above. At her next appointment, she said she was glad she had waited.
"I can already see so much of a difference," she said. "He's a calmer baby sleeping better. I feel so much more prepared for this than if we would have done this last week."
When a baby comes in after already having a release with no prior treatment, we first take some time to analyze where they are with those different goals. Each baby is unique and has their own constellation of symptoms. We spend time listening to parents and learning about their baby. We’re also listening for what are the most urgent circumstances and figuring out how we can help stabilize those. For a baby who isn’t eating, for example, to find a way to take in milk or a baby who isn’t sleeping to get more rest. Often, our priority is to stabilize the baby, as they can be dis-regulated and calming the nervous system can go a long way in supporting recovery.
Then we’ll talk about what other providers might be helpful for your child’s situation and help you find people in our area who are qualified and experienced to help you. We have great recommendations for local providers to work with who are highly respected and knowledgeable.
We’ll also talk through a treatment plan. Our typical treatment plan for tongue tie is done over three months with more appointments at the beginning at that time to help support the body and spacing those appointments out as we see change and progress. While parents often notice a shift and change in the first few sessions, it takes about three months to support healing and recovery, build new patterns and see lasting change.
Sometimes, we recommend a family visit a pediatric dentist who we’ve worked with to see if the release was done properly or if a second release is necessary. We do our best to try to help families avoid this situation if possible, but sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes, craniosacral therapy also helps a release be more successful because it helps reveal more of the fascial tissue that was inaccessible before. Sometimes, scar tissue or possible reattachment of tissues can be involved as well.
Is There Hope After a Failed Tongue Tie Revision? Should We Just Give Up?
YES! There is hope. We have guided many families through this situation and have the experience and knowledge to help you as well. One of the things we consider most important is supporting families mentally and emotionally through the rollercoaster that tongue tie can be. We have helped other families overcome tongue tie, and we would be honored to help you as well. Often the scarcest resource when a baby has a tongue tie is the emotional energy of the parents to find the right answers and build a knowledgeable team. Along with our extensive experience in working with tongue tie, this is one area where our practice really shines - guiding and supporting families through a difficult time.
After a failed revision, many families are exhausted and frustrated. Some feel like they have to give up their breastfeeding goals and use a bottle. Others just accept that their baby has certain issues that have to be managed and do their best. While we support whatever families need to do, we would encourage you to address a tongue tie sooner rather than later.
While bottle feeding and other strategies can help you get through this current period, a tongue tie doesn’t disappear and often has long term outcomes like feeding issues, speech problems, nervous system regulation problems, improper jaw and dental growth and airway problems and more. Our adult tongue tie clients can tell you about the many ways a tongue tie impacted them over the years, even when they didn’t realize how it was affecting them, and how much relief they felt after a release and supportive treatments like myofunctional and craniosacral therapy.
Help For Tongue Tie Even After a Revision
We have seen so many impossible-seeming cases turn into transformations beyond what anyone could have hoped for — families who could barely recognize the people they were when they first came in by their last treatment!
If you’re seeking help for a tongue tie, we would love to meet you and work together to find the treatment plan that’s right for you and your child. Schedule an infant or child initial consult on our website or call or text our office at (616) 433-3003 to connect with us. We look forward to seeing you and supporting you through this process!