Breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful natural wonders of motherhood. It can also be one of the most challenging. How can something so innate and evolutionary be so difficult sometimes? From the proper latch to producing enough milk, breastfeeding stress can overwhelm even the most prepared of mothers. However, if you’re having trouble with breastfeeding and cannot seem to pinpoint the issue, there is something else you should be aware of: tongue tie. First, I HIGHLY recommend reading this very eye-opening book, I gift it to new and pregnant moms all the time now so they can catch tongue ties early.
What is Tongue Tie?
Tongue tie occurs when a baby’s frenulum (that little strip of skin that connects the bottom of the tongue to the mouth) is too short. Usually diagnosed during your baby’s newborn physical exam, tongue tie can make latching extremely difficult for the baby and painful for you.
Signs of tongue tie may include:
- Baby makes a “clicking” sound as they are feeding.
- Baby appears unsettled or hungry most of the time.
- Long feedings, followed by a brief break, and need to feed again right away.
- Difficulty latching or staying latched for an entire feed.
- Baby’s tongue looks heart-shaped when they try to stick their tongue out.
- Baby has difficulty sticking their tongue out.
- Baby develops colic.
- Baby sputters and chokes with fast-flowing milk.
And for mama:
- Low milk supply.
- Engorged breasts or blocked ducts.
- Inflammation of the breast.
- Sore or cracked nipples.
- Engage in a premature end to breastfeeding.
- Experience fatigue.
- Experience feelings of frustration and overwhelm.
Note most breastfeeding issues are not caused by tongue ties.
Tongue Tie Treatment and Considerations
First of all, tongue tie is not your fault, and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. Secondly, many babies do not experience any issues related to tongue ties at all. You may not need to seek treatment unless the condition really impairs your baby’s eating ability. Now, as your baby grows into a toddler, child, teen, and eventually an adult, tongue tie may cause a slight speech impediment. Older children may also experience difficulty eating or reaching their back teeth with their tongue (to clear food away…etc.).
If you want to seek treatment options, your doctor may suggest a simple surgical procedure. A surgeon can essentially “vaporize” extra tissue with a laser without putting anything inside your baby’s mouth. This treatment option should have little to no discomfort for the baby. If you are local to Minnesota, Life Smiles is where we had our revisions.
A tongue-tie division is another treatment option where your doctor, nurse, or midwife cuts short, tight pieces of skin connecting the underside of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. Babies a few months old may receive a local anesthetic that numbs the tongue but shouldn’t feel any pain. Breastfeeding improvements should be imminent after healing from the procedure.
General anesthesia is recommended if you seek treatment for older babies (with teeth) or young children.
When You Choose to Wait
If you decide you want to wait on surgical treatment, there are a few breastfeeding tips you may want to try to help you and your baby:
- Soften your breast before breastfeeding, for the baby may find it easier to latch. Press five fingers around the nipple and gently massage your breast with steady pressure.
- Help the baby get a deeper latch by sliding their chin further from the nipple so they can feel your breast with the fatter part of the tongue.
- Tilt the nipple to meet the baby’s mouth but don’t tilt so far that it is painful for you.
- Encourage the baby to lick milk from your nipple or their lips after feeding to “work out” the tongue.
- Stick your tongue out and encourage your baby to copy you.
- Consider speech therapy for your child if they develop a speech impediment from tongue ties.
As a mom, you know when your baby needs extra TLC and when everything appears to be natural and normal. Use your best judgment and consult your baby’s doctor if your baby has a tongue tie to determine the best treatment options (if necessary) for you and your baby.
For Crunchy Mamas Everywhere
If you are new to motherhood, or even if you are expecting your fifth child, it helps to have a library of resources at your disposal. As a mother of five, I’ve put together a handy catalog of motherhood resources on my website for you to enjoy. I focus on wholesome remedies and holistic solutions to inspire you and your baby to live your best and most natural life! I’ve got tips from prenatal all the way to your baby’s first year.
Remember, you are not alone, mama. We’re all in this motherhood thing together, learning and supporting one another on this beautiful journey.