Simple Surgery Helps Nursing Mom

The work of Group Health physician Eric Schwetschenau was featured in a Jan. 11, 2016, Cincinnati Enquirer article.

Fixing tongue tie in Sharonville triplets

By Anne Saker, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kristine Sharpshair of Sharonville said she and her husband Mark understood they faced a challenge when she got pregnant with triplets – especially since the babies are the couple’s 10th, 11th, and 12th children.

The babies were born at Good Samaritan Hospital in September and named Philomena, Isabella and Odilia. But the challenge escalated when Kristine found that nursing triggered severe pain. From her long experience, Sharpshair knew the pain wasn’t right. “Tears flew out of my face,” Sharpshair said. “I only have two of everything, two arms, two shoulders, two boobs. How do I do this?”

“I curled my toes every time one of them cried,” she said. “I nursed nine kids, so I just thought my supply wasn’t keeping up, and I had to get used to this three-baby thing.”

But at a November checkup, TriHealth lactation expert Lisa Sandora at Bethesda North Hospital found that all three babies had a genetic condition known as tongue tie. The medical term is ankyloglossia. It's a problem of the lingual frenulum, the tissue membrane that tethers the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In some babies, that membrane grows in more toward the tip of the tongue, making nursing painful for mothers. If the problem isn’t fixed, mothers often quit breast-feeding.

Three days after the checkup, TriHealth ear, nose and throat doctor Eric Schwetschenau corrected the condition in the babies in one visit. The fix required first anesthetic then a cut of the lingual frenulum to release the tongue. As part of recovery, Sharpshair massages each triplet’s mouth to promote healing.

Sharpshair said that after the procedure, nursing the triplets immediately became easier.
“Literally, I think he did it on his lunch hour,” she said. “He gave them a little numbing medication, then snip, snip, snip, and we took them right home."

“It was really interesting personally,” Schwetschenau said. “It was interesting because the mom has a lot of experience breast-feeding, and the problem now was that she was trying to feed three infants at once. When we (performed the procedure), it made her experience and their lives much better.”