Does my baby have a tongue tie?

For new parents,especially mothers who are having struggles with breast or bottle feeding, oral restrictions (lip and tongue ties) can be at the forefront of conversations surrounding their new baby. Unfortunately, lip and tongue ties can still be controversial, and different healthcare providers may have different stances on their prevalence and how they affect feeding. Receiving mixed messages from your care providers can be frustrating and confusing, and parents often struggle to feel supported if they are worried their baby may have an oral restriction. I offer evidence-based education and support, to help you get to the bottom of your feeding difficulties.

I have 10+ years experience as an IBCLC and for the last 3 years I have worked with several pediatric dentists who assess and treat lip and tongue ties. I have also developed a network of tongue tie savvy practitioners including Osteopathic Manual Practitioners and Chiropractors who can provide the therapy that is often required to effectively treat infants who have oral restrictions.

If you are curious about lip and tongue ties or wonder if your baby may have one, then feel free to contact me for breastfeeding support and /or referrals to providers who can diagnose and treat your infant.

What is a tongue tie?

  • The medical term for tongue tie is Ankyloglossia. This means that the piece of tissue under the tongue (lingual frenulum) is too tight. While everyone has this tissue, sometimes it is too short or too thick.
  • Tongue tie can make it very difficult for a baby to move their tongue to breastfeed and also bottle feed. It can also cause issues later in life with speech, sleep, airway.
  • In the past medical experts believed the incidence of tongue tie was between 4-10% but as more research is being done that number is likely much higher.
  • A tongue tie that goes all the way to the tip of the tongue(anterior) is easy to see and generally recognised by most healthcare professionals, however some ties are further back from the tip, (posterior), but can cause just as many problems. Unfortunately these types are still very under diagnosed.

Frequent symptoms in mothers/infants:

  • Nipple soreness/damage
  • Poor suck, baby cannot remove milk from the breast
  • Poor seal on breast or bottle, leaking milk and taking in a lot of air
  • Trouble staying latched, shallow latch, popping on and off the breast
  • Long/frequent feeds
  • Poor weight gain
  • Poor sleep/short sleep episodes
  • Very gassy baby, reflux
  • Struggles with solid foods, gagging, choking, hoarding food in cheeks, refuses chewier foods

Other problems that can develop:

  • Colic/GERD/Reflux
  • Mouth breathing
  • Snoring/Sleep Apnea
  • Delayed Speech development
  • Dental decay
  • Migraines/headaches/TMJ Disorder
  • Personal (can’t lick an ice cream, kissing)

How is tongue tie treated

Tongue tie is treated by releasing the tight tissue under the tongue. This can be done by scissors or laser. It is a very quick and safe procedure that will allow the baby to have normal tongue function. After the procedure some babies will immediately learn to use their tongue properly and things improve quickly however, some babies may need some extra help to improve their feeding. An IBCLC (Lactation Consultant) can help with latching and suck training, Chiropractors and Osteopathic Manual Practitioners can help to release tight muscles that can occur when your baby has to compensate for their tight tongue.

The most successful approach to tongue/lip tie revision includes:

  • The IBCLC, who helps to establish better latch mechanics and positioning in addition to improving sucking skills
  • A therapist to help resolve muscle tension which can inhibit both the latch and proper wound healing (Chiropractor or Osteopathic Manual Practitioner)
  • The provider, who should create a proper wound and manage the healing in a way to maximize the mobility of the lip and/or tongue. This multidisciplinary approach is the key to successful rehabilitation from a problematic nursing relationship

For more information please go to the Resources section of this website and look at the links under Tongue Tie Articles