TONGUE TIE AND BREASTFEEDING
By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© January 2017, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Tongue tie is a fairly common birth defect in which the tongue is attached too closely to the bottom or back of the mouth so that it does not move as freely. As a result, a newborn baby cannot breast feed as easily, and there can be other problems later with speech, swallowing and other things. Sometimes, it is mild, and in other cases, it is more extreme.
Why is this important? Tongue tie is important because:
1. It affects up to about 5% of newborn infants, and perhaps more because it is often not diagnosed. In other words, it is rather common.
2. Anything that gets in the way of the pleasure of proper breastfeeding is very important. Many mothers simply give up on breastfeeding after a few days or a few weeks because their infants cannot properly attach to the breast, or the baby sucks too hard in order to attach and this causes pain and other problems for the mother. The mother may also not get her milk properly due to the problem.
WHAT MOTHERS SHOULD DO
1. When you give birth, ask your doctor or midwife if he or she checked for tongue tie. It is important and fairly easy to correct it early. It is not always easy to diagnose, however. So if you think there is a problem, you may have to check with several health professionals.
2. If you are having any breastfeeding problems, please do not give up on breastfeeding. Tongue tie may be the problem, and it is easy to correct.
Seek out someone who can 1) diagnose tongue tie and perhaps a related defect called lip tie, and 2) is willing to correct it, preferably with laser surgery. Correction is not that difficult and it need not be painful.
Beware: Many pediatricians, nurses and even breast feeding consultants do not seem to be able to properly diagnose tongue tie. I do not know how to find the right person. However, it can be very important for you and for your babyÕs health.
SOME FACTS ABOUT TONGUE TIE
The following comes from the web page listed in the reference below:
á It is possible to have both an anterior (frontal) tie AND and posterior one. Although some (anterior) ties are associated with heart-shaped tongues, tongue tips can look rounded or squared if there is posterior tie
á Posterior ties are often misdiagnosed as a short tongue.
á A baby with a tongue tie may be able to stick out his tongue.
á Tongue and lip ties, like the webs of skin between your thumbs and index fingers, do not suddenly shrink, stretch, or disappear.
á Tongue and lip ties can affect a baby's ability to breastfeed.
á Babies who are tongue tied are often not able to drink well from a bottle or take a pacifier.
á Older tongue-tied babies may have difficulty in swallowing solid food. Their tongues may not be mobile enough to move the food to the back of their mouths.
á A mother whose baby is tongue tied may start out with plenty of milk, but the lack of adequate stimulation to her breasts can result in a decrease of her milk production. This, of course, can lead to poor weight gain in the baby.
á Digestion starts in the mouth, and so tongue ties can lead to digestive problems like colic and reflux.
á Tongue tie can affect speech, causing both delays in speech onset, and also in the ability to form certain sounds and words correctly.
á Tongue tie can affect the way teeth come in. For example, the front bottom teeth may be pulled inwards. Babies with tongue ties often have narrow palates, so teeth may be overcrowded.
á When you see a lip tie, there will almost always also be a tongue tie.
á Babies who have lip ties are not able to open up and properly flange their lips, and this can affect their ability to grasp the breast.
á Lip ties may push the two front teeth apart, leading to expensive orthodontic work later. In many cases, if the lip tie is not released, the front teeth will grow apart again after the braces have been removed.
á Tooth decay can be caused by food being pushed into the pockets on either side of a lip tie.
á It may seem trivial, but tongue-tied babies will eventually become tongue-tied children and adults who cannot lick an ice cream cone or French kiss - not trivial to those affected; it is much easier, safer, and less traumatic to fix a tongue tie in infancy than to wait until later childhood or adulthood.
PREVENTING TONGUE TIE AND RELATED BIRTH DEFECTS
Tongue tie tends to run in families, so it may have a genetic or DNA basis. However, it could also just be congenital, which means present at birth, but not genetic. Congenital birth defects, which includes many, are due to toxic metals, toxic chemicals, nutrient deficiencies or other imbalances in the motherÕs body during pregnancy. We do not have enough cases of tongue tie to say for sure if it can be prevented with a proper program.
A very good web page about tongue tie is: