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Small Tongue-Ties can equal Big Problems for Breastfed and Bottle Fed Babies

It is a common misconception that a ‘slight’ tongue-tie will not impact on a baby’s ability to intake milk. The fact is that any degree of tongue-tie can have a significant impact on your baby’s ability to maintain a good latch – on either a bottle or breast. And without a good latch, baby will not get good suction, which can lead to multitudinous problems for babies and their caregivers. 

So let’s break this down:

Firstly, what exactly do we mean by a small or slight tongue-tie? Well, we think of it as a smaller frenulum – or fold of skin beneath the tongue – which is less imposing or restrictive than an obvious tongue-tie. This frenulum may seem insignificant because your child may be able to poke out his or her tongue for example. However, they may not have the full range of tongue movement required to maintain good lactation.

lip tongue tie

So how exactly does a tongue-tie affect the baby’s latch? This is answered best by the Australian Breastfeeding Association: “If the tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth … the baby may not be able to open their mouth wide enough to take in a full mouthful of breast tissue” or a full teat from a bottle. This is where the real problems come in because if a baby is not able to fully suck to take in the milk, they may become malnourished. Further, they may be taking in too much air which can cause reflux, colic, spluttering, gulping etc. It also causes problems for mum because your breasts may become cracked, hardened or flattened which is exacerbated by having an upset baby.

Hence tongue-ties need to be diagnosed early on and need to be taken seriously. The ABA recommends the following as good indicators of a possible tongue-tie: 

  • nipple pain and damage
  • the nipple looks flattened after breastfeeding
  • you can see a compression/stripe mark on the nipple at the end of a breastfeed
  • the baby keeps losing suction while feeding 
  • the baby makes a clicking sound when feeding 
  • the baby fails to gain weight well 
  • Most of these indicators can also be applied to bottle fed babies.

lactation breastfeeding kids

If you are suspecting your child has a tongue-tie we strongly urge you to seek out a professional diagnosis. This can be carried out by a paediatric dentist or experienced lactation consultant who would need to fully examine the tongue. The diagnosis will involve more than a mild sweep under the tongue. The specialist would need to examine your baby’s feeding motion in order to gain a full understanding of the impact of the tongue-tie.

If it is found that your child does have a tongue-tie the specialist will more than likely recommend that it be corrected. This simply involves soft tissue laser therapy to the frenulum*. It does not require anaesthetic and is virtually painless. Your baby will be able to feed straight afterwards in order to soothe.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding tongue-ties or lactation, or for more information please contact us at KIDS. Alternatively, complete the form below, and one of our friendly team members will contact you. 

References:

Analytical Armadillo (2017). “The Mild, Small or Slight Tongue Tie” found under Infant     Feeding & Early Parenting Food for Thought … [online]

Australian Breastfeeding Association (n.d.). “Tongue-Tie and Breastfeeding”. [online]

Victorian State Government (n.d.). “Tongue-Tie”. [online]

* Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

 

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