Forklifting Your Way to Success: Handling the Tongue Stretch

The most common thing I hear from parents is that the stretching exercises post frenectomy, especially under the tongue, are VERY DIFFICULT.  “I don’t know if I’m doing them right.”  This is a completely normal thing to say and feel.  Most parents do not have a complete understanding of the anatomy of the tongue and mouth.  However, I am here to help!

Pic for blog of tongue

A highly respected leader in this area, Dr. Ghaheri, uses the forklift analogy for the tongue stretch and I wanted to expand on that here.  The most critical part for the tongue stretch is NOT how hard you are lifting but the position in which your fingers are placed.

So here’s the forklift analogy:

Imagine you are using a forklift to raise a box with a rope attached to the ground.  Your index fingers are the forks or tynes, the box is the tongue, and the rope is the released frenulum or diamond.

Correct forklift start

When done correctly, the tynes are deeply seated and when you hit the “go” button, the box lifts up into the air and the rope fully stretches and becomes taunt.

Forklift end correct

Now lets imagine that you did NOT have the tynes seated far back enough.

Incorrect forklift start

When you hit the “go” button (with the same amount of force as before) the box falls backward and the rope is still slack.

Incorrect forklift end

Essentially, this is what the tongue stretch is all about.  As you can see that when your fingers are not properly placed, it doesn’t matter how high or hard you lift.  The stretch is incomplete and ineffective.

Forklifting picture

The provider you see must understand this concept.  If they tell you no aftercare is needed, then you are letting the rope remain coiled.  If they tell you that the movement of the tongue from nursing is enough to keep the area stretched, then you are letting the rope remain slack.  Without proper stretching the “box and rope” will never reach its maximal elevation point.

So how do you know if your “tynes” are far back enough? It takes lots of practice and guidance from the provider or referring lactation consultant. In my next post, I will show my newest video of the home care exercises which should tie this all together.

Hopefully, this will help the parent better understand the mechanics of the tongue stretch.  Reattachment is rare and so is getting fired from the Amazon shipping warehouse.