Oral restrictions are a hot topic! If you have no idea what a tongue-tie is, you’re not alone. Most people don’t usually hear this term until they’re knee-deep in the newborn days and are likely experiencing some type of feeding difficulty or pain with breastfeeding.
If you have a baby who is “refluxy” or “colicky” and start Googling what you can do for this, you may have come across tongue-tie.
Let’s dive into what this condition is, the symptoms, and possible solutions.
What Is Tongue-Tie?
Also known as ankyloglossia, this condition restricts the movement of a baby’s tongue. “…an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) tethers the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth, so it may interfere with breastfeeding,” explains Mayo Clinic.
Tongue-tie keeps the tongue in place so the baby is unable to move their tongue as they should.
While this condition is sometimes diagnosed during a physical examination, it can be difficult to spot at first. Just because your lactation consultant at the hospital didn’t identify an oral restriction doesn’t mean your baby doesn’t have one. When you’re discharged from the hospital schedule a follow-up consultation with a lactation consultant.
What Are Tongue-Tie Symptoms?
There are a few tell-tale signs that point towards a newborn having tongue-tie, namely:
- Trouble With Breastfeeding
This can include difficulty in getting your baby to latch as well as damaged nipples. A baby with tongue-tie is unable to move their tongue efficiently, so may rely on chewing instead of sucking.
- Long Yet Unsatisfying Feedings
A baby with tongue-tie may spend a lot of time at the breast, but then after the feed, they still seem to be hungry.
- Clicking Sound When Feeding
A clicking sound can be a sign of poor tongue mobility.
- Engorgement And Mastitis
If a baby is unable to drain their mother’s breasts efficiently, it could lead the breasts to become engorged and infected.
- Low Milk Supply
Breastfeeding works on a supply-and-demand basis. So, if a baby isn’t feeding effectively this tells your body to make less breast milk.
How Do You Fix A Tongue-Tied Baby?
The course of action to fix tongue-tie depends on the individual baby and the severity of their condition.
In fact, many babies with an oral restriction feed efficiently enough that there may be no invasive intervention recommended at all.
However, if tongue-tie is causing problems such as low weight gain, surgery may be the answer. “If your child has tongue-tie and has trouble feeding, their healthcare provider can perform a tongue-tie surgery in which they cut their lingual frenulum. This is called a frenectomy (also known as frenulectomy, frenotomy or tongue-tie division). It’s often performed without sedation on infants,” explains Cleveland Clinic.
If surgery is not on the table, there are other treatments and interventions to help with tongue-tie. Healthline lists craniosacral therapy, lactation interventions, physical and occupational therapy, and oral motor therapy as potential options.
Leaving tongue-tie untreated can lead to undesirable consequences.
What Happens If You Don’t Treat Tongue-Tie?
Poor latch and painful feedings can make breastfeeding extremely challenging. Many moms stop breastfeeding sooner than they had planned because of undiagnosed and mismanaged oral restrictions.
Tongue-tie is commonly associated with babies that don’t sleep well. This is because feeding and sleep are closely connected. Full efficient feedings will help your baby sleep better and for longer.
Untreated tongue-tie can lead to problems down the road for your child, including speech difficulties and challenges with eating certain foods.
Not treating tongue-tie can make the newborn phase more difficult and frustrating than it needs to be and can lead to long-term consequences.
However, some babies are able to work around oral restrictions! So, intervention may not be needed and the tongue-tie can go away as the NHS tells, “Untreated tongue-tie may not cause any problems as a child gets older, and any tightness may resolve naturally as the mouth develops.”
Remember, Mama, just because your baby may show some of the above symptoms, it doesn’t mean they necessarily have tongue-tie. The only way you’ll know for sure is to take them for an oral exam. You can work with a feeding specialist or a Speech Language Pathologist specializing in infant feeding – this is a good place to start! Your healthcare provider will recommend the best course of action for the well-being of your little one once the severity of the tongue-tie has been established.