Breastfeeding and Tongue Tie
Tongue-tie or medically known as ankyloglossia, is a condition where babies have an abnormally short membrane under their tongues. The short membrane or frenulum, is a strip of skin that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth and when it is shorter or thicker than usual, it stops the tongue’s tip from sticking out beyond the lower gum.
In another words, it is an actual condition that restricts tongue motions in babies. This condition has been established as a congenital abnormality and it is affecting 2.8% to 10.7%1 of the babies.
With such condition, it may cause breastfeeding difficulties among the babies. Tongue-tied babies cannot protrude their tongues, making it difficult to latch onto breasts. Therefore, a tongue-tied baby may not be able to suckle properly, which means he/she might not get enough milk to grow well.
Mothers with tongue-tied babies may also experience nipple pain, mastitis, low milk supply, and emotional pain. As a result, mothers who plan exclusive breastfeeding often result in weaning their babies early.
Tongue-tie is sometimes diagnosed during a newborn’s examination. However, this condition is not always easy to spot. There are some signs parents can check for to identify tongue-ties in their babies. You may be dealing with tongue-tie if your baby;
• Finds it difficult to latch to the breast
• Continuously takes short breaks while feeding
• Is not gaining weight as expected
• Has problem sticking his/her tongue out
• Has tongue which looks heart-shaped when he/she try to stick it out
• Dribbles milk during breastfeeding
If you notice or suspect your baby has a tongue-tie and is not feeding well, it is essential to visit a professional for diagnosis. Untreated tongue-tie in babies may also affect other areas like speech, swallowing, and eating.
There are many debates about the right way to treat tongue-tie. Sometimes, a tongue-tie is asymptomatic and the tongue-tied baby can feed without any problem. For some, you need to learn ways to readjust your breast and position your baby. However, in some cases, a doctor may decide that clipping the tongue-tie is the best solution. Frenotomy in young babies involves cutting the frenulum without anesthesia (or with a local anesthesia). Before tongue-tie clipping is done, you will need to discuss with your doctor to decide if it is the best for your baby’s nutrition.
1) Edmunds J, Miles SC, Fulbrook P. Tongue-tie and breastfeeding: a review of the literature. Breastfeed Rev. 2011. Mar;19(1):19-26.