As much as I joke about how difficult it is to get my kids to eat, I’m not joking today. My oldest son has had a hard time for years eating a wide variety of foods and we finally found the reason WHY.
When he was a toddler the pickiness and slow eating started, I chalked it up to typical toddler pickiness with respect to certain foods. I assumed he would eventually grow out of the pickiness and that things would improve. But they didn’t.
And within the past year, it almost seemed like things were getting worse. Food after food was being crossed off of his list of acceptable meals and snacks. Packing lunch was so stressful and meal times were dreadful for him and me. When he did eat, the quantities he ate were so small and took so long to eat but never ended up finishing it. I was constantly worrying about him getting enough nutrition to grow.
My life has always centred around trying to get him to eat. All of the typical “do this and he will eventually eat” things never worked. And believe me, I tried them all from surfing hours on the internet to reading books to understand what is wrong, trying positive reinforcements, sticking to the routine, being patient, making it fun, involving my child’s help, don't offer dessert as a reward, setting a good example, name it and I tried it all.
A few weeks ago things came to a head with a meltdown of epic proportions on both his and my part when he would not (could not) eat his favourite food. The one thing I can be guaranteed he will eat. If we are now crossing his favourite and most easily eaten food off the list, then I knew we were in trouble. Something HAD to change. I really started thinking that maybe there was more to this issue than what meets the eye.
A friend of mine suggested that the combination of behaviours and symptoms sounded like a a tongue tie.. I was disturbed at the thought.
My oldest child didn’t really have a “problem” gaining weight, he was just always on the smaller side. Although I never thought he had breastfeeding issues, they were likely masked due to the fact that I was working full time and pumping, so he received more than half of his feedings through bottles (which are much easier for a tongue tied baby to eat from). He never had any speech issues though, which is one of the more obvious signs. Could he have had this problem all along?
But the more we talked, the more things started to come together. He clenches his teeth every night. He takes forever to chew, sometimes gagging on food and brushing teeth, cavities, migraines, food aversions, messy eating, agitation, texture issues, distrubed sleep, noisy breathing and more.
It took me a while to digest this and after some experience I’ve learned that it is extremely important to find the right person, because most doctors or dentists aren’t truly knowledgeable about tongue ties.
We got him evaluated. He does have a tongue tie. Although it might not be obvious to the untrained eye, his tongue was not able to move the way it should. This includes the process of swallowing. His tongue was too tightly tethered to the floor of the mouth making it unable to adequately move upwards and backwards in the normal swallowing motion.
I simultaneously felt relieved and guilty; relieved to have an answer, but guilty because I didn’t figure this out sooner.