How does tongue tie affect breastfeeding?

tongue-tie breastfeeding

How does tongue tie affect breastfeeding?

February 14, 2021 1:08 pm Published by

While the exact number of cases is not known, tongue tie, or to give its more formal name, ankyloglossia, is believed to affect up to 5% of babies. The condition is when the strip of skin between your baby’s tongue and the floor of the mouth, called the frenulum, is shorter than usual. This can restrict movement of the tongue. Sometimes this will be spotted at birth, but
more often it is diagnosed if your baby has feeding problems later on.

How serious is tongue tie?

There are many different levels of tongue-tie, but generally the tighter and shorter it is, the more likely problems are too. If the tongue-tie is mild, you may not need to do anything – some babies are not affected by it at all. The most common situation in which to be concerned is if your baby is having feeding issues.

Does it cause breastfeeding difficulty?

The short answer is – yes, it can – but not always. For successful breastfeeding, baby must ‘latch on’ properly to the breast and nipple, making a seal, with the tongue covering the lower gum to protect the nipple. If your baby has tongue tie, they may not be able to open their mouth wide enough or get into the right positioning. This can lead to problems for mum and baby. Mum may experience nipple pain, mastitis where the breast becomes inflamed, or lower milk supply. You may find that your baby is having difficulty feeding for the full length of time, feeding only for short periods, not gaining weight, or being unsettled and constantly hungry. All of this is usually because baby simply can’t feed properly.

Later effects

If left untreated, a problematic tongue-tie can cause speech problems and difficulty eating. However, a tongue-tie may also fix itself naturally as your child grows. It differs for every child. While tongue tie treatment can still happen in later life, it is usually done under general anaesthetic once your baby has teeth, or if they are older than that.

Would tongue tie treatment improve breastfeeding?

If you are having problems with breastfeeding then it’s best to seek the advice of a pediatric healthcare professional such as at Drs. Nicolas & Asp, as there are a number of reasons why you might be having problems. The professional will need to use a special assessment tool to determine tongue function, where exactly the tongue tie is, and if a surgical procedure is recommended. If the problem is tongue-tie, and it is significantly interfering with feeding abilities, then the doctor may suggest a frenotomy.

What is the procedure like?

A frenotomy – also called a frenectomy, or more simply, tongue-tie division – is a relatively minor procedure that is carried out in a few moments. The problem-causing short piece of skin is cut, freeing the tongue. In babies, anaesthetic isn’t usually required, though a local anaesthetic can be used on the tongue. There may be a little bleeding, but that’s it.

Depending on your situation, the doctor may use a sterile pair of scissors or a laser. While there is some debate over the need for a procedure in cases of tongue-tie, it’s important to weigh up the situation with the help of professional medical advice at Drs. Nicolas & Asp, which offers kids’ dentist services. If your baby is not feeding properly, then this simple operation may provide the solution.

How do I care for the surgical site?

The site heals in a day or so, though you may see a little white patch on the area while it is healing. Your doctor might recommend stretching exercises for a little while, to stop the skin from growing back in the same way again. Afterward, you should find the feeding problems improve very quickly in the following weeks.

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