Sunday, February 22, 2009

Shouldn't have done that... he's just a boy...

When he was just one week old, we decided to let a doctor cut little Max's frenulum.

Everybody has a frenulum connecting their tongue to the bottom of their mouths. But in some people (including my side of the family), that frenulum is a little short. "Tongue tied," they call it. It can cause speech problems, so Max's mom, the speech pathologist, noticed it right away. My sister and I had no trouble with English sounds, but trying to learn new sounds from other languages later in life turned out to be pretty hard. For example, I can't roll my R's at all.

In my case, it also prevents me from sticking my tongue out very far. And if you can stick your tongue out, you probably think that this is no big deal. But you would be surprised on how many occasions in life those of us who cannot extend our tongues feel that lack, keenly.

In Max's case, it was also causing him to use his gums instead of his tongue when breastfeeding. Very painful for mom. We were worried that he wasn't going to get enough to eat.

So, the doctor cut it. It didn't seem to bother Max much (no more than anything else), but it sure did bother his parents a little.

Did we do the right thing? We modified the boy without his consent. We hope for the better...


  1. I am having a hard time deciding whether you "did the right thing," but without being able to know for sure, I think I might have both made the same decision and had the same reservations as you. Why is it exactly that I think I wouldn't circumcise my hypothetical son (or get my hypothetical daughter's ears pierced), but think there are good reasons to free up your boy's tongue? Clearly, people can live without correcting the "tongue-tie," but the reasons you have given for having it corrected resonate with me.

  2. Update: I've been reading more on the subject, and it seems like the procedure is not overly invasive, and that there can sometimes be quite serious issues (and not just with speech or licking ice cream) if the tongue-tie is not corrected. Moreover, it appears that if you're going to do it, it's best to get it done early, so that one has created fewer compensatory behaviors that one then has to unlearn.

  3. Hey Jason! I think your decision was well timed. I am also among the tongue-tied and remember being one of the kids who had to see the school's speech therapist in grade school, though I'd forgotten about that until I was 15 and had my wisdom teeth removed. The oral surgeon commented on my closely attached frenulum at some length and cheerfully offered to snip it. I said no because I'd long since learned to compensate and didn't care to risk having to re-learn articulate speech or deal with even more stitches in my mouth; four teeth out at once was enough pain, thank you very much. I did wonder why that wasn't done when I was an infant, when I wouldn't have remembered it and before it interfered with language development, but at 15 it seemed too late (even though I regret not being able to make that cool purring sound). So that's my story; I hope it helps set your minds at ease!