I have nursed 6 babies and I must admit that I had never heard of tongue tie. If it is real thing how could I have not heard about it? Well for one thing I really didn’t have a lot of breastfeeding problems to prompt me to get any help or look for answers. I remember some times of excruciating nipple pain but it was short-lived so I just powered through it. Not a good idea if the pain doesn’t go away but I had never even heard of a Lactation Consultant or any other kind of breastfeeding specialist to go to.
As I started out on my journey to become a breastfeeding specialist I began to hear about this thing called “tongue tie” or Ankyloglossia. One of the first classes I took was on this subject and early chiropractic or bodywork for a newborn. Shortly after that one of my daughters had a baby with breastfeeding issues. As she looked into it she found out that her baby not only had tongue tie but also a need to see a chiropractor who was well versed in babies and practiced CST (craniosacral therapy). Along came my next grand baby a couple of months later and he, too, had breastfeeding issues which were diagnosed as a tongue tie. He also benefited from craniosacral therapy.
So began my fascination with all things “tongue tie”. I wanted to learn all I could about it so I could be better armed with information if my clients had this issue with their babies.
To answer my own question….”Is that really a thing?”…Yes it really is a thing. So why are we just now hearing about it? In my personal opinion and from snipets I have heard, I believe it probably was a problem in the past and possibly dealt with in some manner or another and mamas just dealt with the pain. But as breastfeeding fell out of favor from the introduction of bottles and formula it just wasn’t seen much anymore and just faded into the background. Also breastfeeding education and specialists were pretty rare. Even today it is difficult to find a pediatrician who knows much beyond the basics of breastfeeding.
More moms are choosing to breastfeed now and as they run into problems they are looking for answers. People are out there now who are studying the problems and finding answers. Some of the experts in the field are Dr. Lawrence Kotlow DDS, Richard Baxter DDS and Dr. Bobak Ghaheri MD. Some good websites to visit on the issue are https://airwaymatters.blog/, https://www.drghaheri.com/ and https://www.kiddsteeth.com/.
I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Dr. Ghaheri this weekend. I learned a ton. Some of the things that I learned that I want to highlight on this issue are that nipple pain and poor weight gain aren’t the only indications for intervention, some babies can compensate for their tongue or lip tie but that can cause negative downstream effects, untreated tongue- tied babies are 300% more likely to be exclusively bottle fed at 1 week of age, Ricke(2005) and that just because a baby can stick their tongue out doesn’t mean there isn’t a tongue tie. The issue of the tie is the elevation of the tongue and how that relates to breastfeeding.
If you have stuck with me this long, you must have a reason for reading this so let’s talk about the breastfeeding problems that can be associated with a tongue-tied baby.
Poor quality latch, falls asleep prematurely while nursing, slides of the breast, colic symptoms, reflux symptoms, gumming/chewing/chomping on the breast, pacifier problems, low milk supply, nipple damage(cracked, creased, bleeding), severe pain, poor/incomplete drainage of breast, mastitis/thrush, vasospasm, infected nipples, poor weight gain, baby’s lips are dark(like lip liner) while the edge of the lip is white which indicates baby is using his lips to hang on
Will your baby or you experience all of these symptoms? Not likely. Does having one or more automatically mean there is a tongue or lip tie? Not necessarily. But it does give an indicator that you and your baby need some additional help beyond your pediatrician. Seek out a breastfeeding specialist or IBCLC. They can help you figure out if there are other problems first before referring you to the appropriate ENT or pediatric dentist for help.
So besides researching the topic and being convinced that tongue tie is real I also have the real life experience of two of my grandchildren having a tongue tie. They both had the revision done and are thriving. There are after-care exercises and they are super important to do to keep the site from reattaching but it is doable and the short amount of time to do them compared to months and months of pain-free breastfeeding your precious baby are well worth it.