Welcome to Episode 3 (Part 1) of ‘Tongue Tied on Tuesday’, a fortnightly blog series where I am fact-checking some of the claims that are made about Tongue Tie (and other oral ties) in an effort to help parents feel informed when they are making decisions about their child’s mouth (and possible surgery).
Today’s blog is all about Tongue Tie and eating. Specifically, when babies begin eating food (called ‘weaning’ in some countries, in Australia we tend to refer to it as ‘starting solids’). Now there is a lot to talk about, so I've split today's post into two parts. Part 1 - why does it feel like Tongue Tie is being blamed for everything? And Part 2 - is it true that Tongue Tie affects eating? You can read Part 2 here. (and for previous entries you can read Episode 1 here, and Episode 2 here)
I’ve seen quite a few lists lately doing the rounds on Facebook and Instagram. I have no idea who makes these lists, or what facts they are based on, but they usually look something like this:
Now, it would be easy to read a list like that and think “Cripes! My baby MUST have oral ties” but remember to keep your parent-fact-checking-hat firmly on. Has anyone noticed that these lists rarely actually mention the tongue? Instead, they list off all the ‘undesirable’ (but well within the range of normal) baby behaviours that we wish we could control. I mean, sleep deprivation? Ummm... that's just part of having a baby, isn't it??
I was chatting about this the other day with a colleague. What is it about my generation of parents that has created this compulsion to have the perfect baby? Why are we finding it so hard to accept that babies cannot be controlled, or fixed, and that they cry, and get gas, and don’t sleep the way that we would like them to a lot of the time. We came up with many hypotheses about why things like Tongue Tie surgery has sky rocketed, and partly I feel that it is linked with our lack of exposure to the real-ness of parenthood. You know, what babies are actually like. How they behave. What they do, and how they change all the time, and are unpredictable.
Yes, there’s lots of funny memes where mothers are skolling bottles of wine and calling their children arseholes... but that’s not particularly helpful. Neither is the constant stream of Insta-perfect babies in styled outfits with beautifully coordinated nurseries to match. Or the Facebook posts from distant acquaintances of the happy, chubby, smiling babies in exotic travel destinations. Where are all the cranky babies? The ones that would only sleep on their mama’s chest for the last three weeks? The ones that are cluster feeding? Or teething? Or crying because.. well who knows why? Because they’re a baby!
As a generation of mothers, we generally don’t have a village around us anymore of other mothers to learn from. Often our own mothers are still working, sometimes even our grandmothers are still working, and we don’t have the close connections with our neighbours or large families to call upon like we used to. When we are worried about our baby, rather than turning to the close, trusted village of women that we once would have had, we “do our research” and jump on Google and Facebook to look for answers. We think we are connecting with a village through social media but these aren’t women we know and trust, or who know us and our baby intimately. They are strangers. And whilst social media can provide lovely connections and friendships that you might not have encountered otherwise, it is also a dangerous place of bullying, judgement, and anxiety. It breaks my heart reading posts on “Support Groups” that are bullying and coercive, in that insidious highschool-Mean-Girls way where by adding a sweetener of hun or babe to the comment they are somehow being your supportive BFF. I don’t buy it. Support groups should be just that – supportive. And sometimes they are great supports. But you have to be so careful with Tongue Tie. We aren’t talking about strangers recommending a sleeping bag or a bottle. We’re talking about paediatric oral surgery on your baby.
So on to part 2 - should we believe the claims that Tongue Tie affects how you learn to eat solids? You read all about it here.