Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, occurs when the piece of tissue beneath the baby's tongue tethers the tongue to the floor of the mouth restricting the normal movement of the tongue. Oral tethers may extend beyond the tongue to the upper lip and cheeks as well. Evaluating the entire oral cavity is important for a comprehensive understanding of any potential issues. These ties can affect both breastfeeding and bottle feeding in various ways, making it challenging for the baby to latch effectively and causing discomfort for the breastfeeding parent. If your baby has difficulty latching or if you experience persistent nipple pain, tongue tie might be the culprit. Consult with an advanced skills board certified lactation consultant for an assessment as they are the most qualified provider regarding infant feeding.
Seeking professional advice is essential because there are a multitude of factors that can cause restricted tongue movements and challenging feeding. Having a trusted provider on your team can help guide you through all the contributing factors that might be making feeding more challenging than it needs to be. Sometimes tongue tie does not require intervention for infant feeding purposes. Sometimes families can "work around" or compensate for a tie by keeping milk supply high via pumping, using some bottles, etc.
However, when necessary, to help a meet a family's goals, tongue tie can be addressed through a procedure called a frenotomy. This quick procedure involves cutting the frenulum to release the restriction, allowing for improved tongue movement. Many babies experience some immediate improvement in latch and feeding efficiency after a frenotomy. Most babies take a week to really begin to benefit from the procedure. It's important to note that the decision to pursue a frenotomy should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals, considering the individual needs and circumstances of the baby and family. Its also important to maintain contact with your provider after the procedure in order to provide your baby with the necessary and appropriate oral habilitation work to help optimize their ability to feed well.
If you’re experiencing complications, don't hesitate to reach out for support. Early intervention can make a significant difference with feeding outcomes and promote optimal oral development for your little one. Milkwell consultants are highly trained in evaluating the structure and function of the oral cavity and can help identify when tongue, lip and cheek ties are impacting feeding. Sometimes a comprehensive examination is necessary at the very first visit and other times we perform the evaluation at subsequent visits depending on the challenges families are presenting with. If ties are identified, we will guide on risks, benefits, expected outcomes and the optimal timing of the procedure if needed and offer guidance for the appropriate habilitation before and afterwards. COMING DECEMBER 2023: We have a self paced course for parents all about tongue, lip and cheek ties. Stay tuned for more info!