If your baby is tongue-tied, they might grow up to have speech problems and struggle with things that other children find easy to do naturally.
Even though you’ll be thinking of your child’s future when deciding how to best tackle this issue, you also have to think of what’s going on right now, and your baby’s ability to thrive now.
It can be difficult for some babies that suffer from a lip or tongue tie, to breastfeed properly, and when it is successful, it can be so tiring for them.
Some babies who have lip or tongue tie may end up being underweight and extremely fussy because they struggle to get the nourishment they need.
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What is a tongue tie?
If you lift up your tongue in front of a mirror, you will notice the underneath of your tongue being connected to the floor of your mouth.
You will be able to move the unconnected portion of your tongue around and even wiggle it around and stick it out. If you want to, you can rub it over all of your teeth.
If your baby is tongue tied, there is some obstruction. The tissue under the tongue will be connected too far toward almost to the tip of your tongue.
You may notice that in some babies, the tissue will tend to connect to the very tip of the tongue down to the floor of the mouth.
If this is the case, the tissue will be very short and this will prevent any regular movements of the tongue.
Lip tie is very similar, except it is the lip that is connected too far, not the tongue.
You baby will not be able to move their tongue around in the way that you can in the mirror and they probably won’t be able to stick it out either.
It does depend on the extent of the tongue in which the range of motion they can accomplish.
Although, generally, they won’t be able to stick their tongue out beyond their gums and this can make it difficult for them to do anything that requires any range of motion outside of their mouth.
Symptoms of tongue tie
• Pain while nursing
• Overactive letdown
• Sore/cracked nipples
• Low milk supply
• Thrush (which keeps appearing)
• Flattened nipples
• Choking/gulping noises
• Poor latch
• Clicking sounds
• Poor weight gain
• Popping on/off breast
• Milk blister on the upper lip
• Messy eater
• Screaming at the breast
• Acid reflux
• Pushing away from the breast
• Refusing to nurse
Related: Best Bassinet for Breastfeeding
Why are we seeing an increase in tongue-ties?
There probably hasn’t been any significant increase in the number of tongue-ties, but instead, an increase in the awareness around breastfeeding that would make it seem that way.
Breastfeeding struggles with a tongue-tied baby
It can be heartbreaking to see the effect that tongue or lip tie has on breastfeeding. Your baby won’t be able to open their mouth widely, which will decrease the latch on to the breast.
It is difficult for tongue-tied babies to push their tongues beyond their gums and lips in order to breastfeed.
For breastfeeding babies, the tongue’s job is to bring the nipple and areola into their mouth and hold it in the correct position for the milk can flow into the mouth. The baby will struggle to get milk if this isn’t done correctly.
A baby will struggle to thrive and won’t be able to breastfeed is something isn’t done to treat the problem if they’re unable to feed at all.
For a mom, their milk will likely decrease with a tongue-tied baby because even though they’ll start out with a good production of milk but due to the baby’s tongue not stimulating the nipple enough, the milk decreases which will arise in a poor weight gain in the baby.
A baby can successfully breastfeed even if they have tongue-tie, but it can be very tiring for them due to the extra work they have to put in.
Due to the amount of effort they have to put in to breastfeed, your baby might be breastfeeding for a longer period of time, and they may even get tired before they get enough milk to feel satisfied.
Not only does incorrect breastfeeding affect your baby, but it can also damage the health of your nipples too.
This is due to the fact that tongue tied babies will most likely use their lips and gums to get a grip of the nipple, and this can be painful.
Treating a tongue tie
Breastfeeding a tongue-tied baby can sometimes not be a problem but more often than not, you will need to seek treatment and advice from your doctor about how to maintain the milk production that your baby needs.
If you think your baby is tongue tied, it is best to have them evaluated by a doctor. The doctor will check for tongue tie and determine how severe the condition is.
If another problem is found, the treatment might be completely different from how it would if it were tongue-tie.
You will need to make a decision on tongue-tie is that is what is determined to be the issue. If you decide on surgery to correct the problem, you will need to see a specialist beforehand to ensure the right procedure is performed.
This operation will help prevent any long-term conditions such as speech problems and also help early on with your baby learning to feed properly.
It also means that your mind will be at rest that your child will be able to do everything other children get to do as they get older.
If you come to the decision that you don’t want your baby to have an operation, you’ll have to work with your baby on breastfeeding.
You might even consider partially bottle feeding, especially if you find that your baby is unable to breastfeed for long enough to get the right amount of nutrients.
You will have to get your baby’s weight and overall health checked regularly, to ensure they are getting what they need to grow healthily.
Don’t worry too much, not all babies have to go through surgery or tongue clipping to successfully feed. It would be easier for your tongue-tied baby to learn to bottle-feed rather than breastfeed.
You need to have the right evaluation of your baby’s condition to determine how efficient they are while breastfeeding to ensure they are getting the nourishment they need to thrive.
Should I attend the procedure?
You will more than likely be asked if you want to attend the operation. Don’t. The last thing you want is to see your baby in pain with blood coming out of their mouth. It’s a horrible sight and I wouldn’t recommend it to any mother.
If you want to attend to comfort then, then that’s fine. Just be mindful that a nurse will hold your baby while the doctor makes the cut, which will comfort them enough.
Once the procedure is over, you’ll have your baby back to breastfeed, and at that moment, you can comfort her as much as you want. You will find that as soon as your baby is latching onto your breast, you’ll let out a sigh of relief.
What to expect after a tongue tie operation?
Straight after the 10-minute procedure, your baby will likely become fussy and refuse to nurse completely. It would be best to help your baby by feeding through a syringe and making breastmilk cubes in the freezer for any pain.
There might be some minimal bleeding which will most likely stop within 15 minutes.
Lip and tongue tie exercises
There are specific movements and lifts of the mouth which are important to do several weeks following up to the operation. Although, do not start these exercises until 24 hours after the procedure.
Movement exercises (6-8 times per day)
• Extension of the tongue
Simply touch your baby’s upper lip and drag your finger downward, this will cause your baby to open their mouth. Repeat this until your baby sticks their tongue out. If they don’t, just gently touch the tip of the tongue.
• Cheek pull
Hook your finger inside the cheeks and just gently pull them apart.
• Trace the gums
Use your finger to trace the gum line, top, and bottom.
Lifts (4 times per day)
• Lip lift
Using your fingers, place them on either side of the wound and flip the upper lip towards the nose. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 3 times.
• Tongue lift
Place both of your fingers below your baby’s tongue on either side of the wound and lift the tongue towards the roof of their mouth. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Finally, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect.
This is difficult. Even though you’ll feel endless amounts of support from the people around you, they aren’t necessarily with you in the middle of the night as you try to comfort your crying baby who is unable to latch and is red from frustration and hunger.
Supplement when needed and pump when convenient. You will be put under a lot of pressure to pump exclusively, and you will be made to feel like you’re failing if you don’t.
Do not give in to this pressure, just do what you feel is right to do based on your situation. Remember, that this is good enough.