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What a Difference a Day Makes

Patty Spanjer
Dalton GA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 5, September-October 2000, p. 161

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

When my son, Drew, was 17 months old, he had to have some dental work done under general anesthesia. There were holes in his four upper front teeth, right along the gum line. Two of Andrew's brothers had problems with a lack of enamel on their baby teeth. Because of this, I had been watching Drew's teeth closely. However, neither brother had problems this early.

The work was done at a children's hospital because of a family history of trouble with anesthesia. While he was in the operating room, we got a call telling us they were going to have to cut the upper (labial) frenulum, the connective tissue between the lip and the gum, and re-stitch it higher. Drew's frenulum was so tight and thick that food and liquids got caught under it, causing decay.

Before the surgery, it had always been somewhat uncomfortable to nurse Drew. I thought this was due to his strong suck and high activity level. He often arched his back and/or pulled back his head. As a matter of fact, I quit taking Drew along when speaking at childbirth classes because he demonstrated such poor positioning. I was constantly breaking the suction and reattaching him. At night, I was often saying "ouch" because I would doze off and he would be nursing on the end of my nipple. Actually, I rarely slept while nursing him. I could actually feel my nipple rubbing on his teeth! Since there is no option for me except nursing, I just accepted that it was physically uncomfortable because I loved the relationship. I really thought it was "just Drew." But since his surgery there is no pain! He still twists, turns, and climbs all over me, as most of my five children have done, but the discomfort is gone. Before, he would often appear to be slipping off the nipple and I would have to reposition him. Now he flanges his lips properly. I nursed him in the recovery room immediately after surgery. I noticed the difference right away and commented to the recovery room nurse. I wondered if he was nursing "gently" due to the anesthesia.

Interestingly, he seems more comfortable. It had been impossible to get oral medication into Drew, and it had been hard to get him to open his mouth. Now he is not only taking (without too much trouble) the antibiotics prescribed after the surgery, but he is also letting me check his stitches. Brushing his upper front teeth seems to cause him pain, even though I am as gentle as I can be, so I think the stitches must be bothering him some.

Drew's speech had been within normal limits but not as clear as our other children's speech at this age. Since the surgery, it has become much more understandable. Certain sounds are clearer. Now "affle" is "apple," and so on.

I have been an LLL Leader for twenty years and I am also a board-certified lactation consultant. My husband is a pediatrician and we have five children ranging in age from twenty-four years to seventeen months. I have worked with many breastfeeding mothers for whom breastfeeding was painful because their babies had short lingual, or lower, frenulums (the membrane attaching the tongue to the floor of the mouth). Also known as "tongue-tie," this condition keeps the baby's tongue from extending over his teeth and prevents him from breastfeeding effectively. But I had no knowledge of upper frenulums being a problem.

If I had known Drew's upper frenulurn was causing my pain, I would have had the surgery done earlier, since it is less involved if it is done at birth. However, I thought nursing him was no fun because he had such a strong suck. He still has a strong suck after the surgery, but it no longer hurts me! Fortunately, Drew went back to his healthy, active self after the surgery and now I can relax and enjoy our breastfeeding relationship.

Reprinted from an issue of Dogwood Blossoms, the Area Leaders' Letter for LLL of Georgia.

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