Is your baby seemed to be having difficulties while breastfeeding? Do you find your little one is not able to latch on to your breast to feed correctly? You might notice some issue with their tongue, being the reason for your baby not being able to breastfeed. If you find this issue recurring with your baby, then they might actually have something called ankyloglossia. To learn more about this, keep on reading this article.
Ankyloglossia, or in standard terms known as tongue-tie, is quite a common condition in babies. To describe it plainly, it’s when the piece of tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is short, tight, or thick. As a result, your baby cannot move their tongue in the required way to latch onto your nipple. Although not all babies with tongue-tie have trouble feeding, it depends on the severity of the tongue-tie.
Fair assessment and selection are critical because 50% of breastfeeding babies with ankyloglossia will not encounter any problems. To know answers to more doubts and questions such as if your baby requires treatment of tongue-tie, when and how to get it done, and everything else related to breastfeeding in such a condition, keep reading on.
Signs of Finding Tongue-tie
Even before consulting with your pediatrician, you can recognize if your little one might have this condition or not have it. There are a few simple signs that might let you know.
- With tongue-tie, your baby might have difficulty in sticking their tongue out.
- They might also have difficulty in lifting their tongue to upper teeth or moving it side to side.
- Their tongue might appear notched or heart-shaped when sticking out.
After recognizing this condition in your baby and if your little one is facing feeding problems, visit and consult your pediatrician.
Breastfeeding Problem due to Tongue-tie
Your baby needs to have a useful mouth function along with their proper tongue movement to be able to breastfeed properly.
If your baby’s tongue is anchored down to their jaw, having a tongue-tie will result in a suction problem. Due to tongue-tie, your baby won’t be able to draw in your breast as required, resulting in damage to your nipple too.
A baby with tongue-tie problems cannot lift their tongue in the right position to suck at the nipple; this results in them chewing instead sucking at it. Due to this, your baby will start doing the following things:
- Stop feeding all at once. Your baby will start refusing to feed, as they aren’t able to feed correctly.
- Your little one will start getting irritated and cry. Other everyday routine things might also get disturbed.
- As they cannot get enough milk, they will not breastfeed correctly and start getting weaker. There might be weight loss too.
When your baby has a tongue-tie condition, we know by now they won’t be able to feed correctly. But this condition also harms you as a mother. This will cause significant pain and damage to your nipple. Your nipples can become quite sensitive to other severe problems like:
- The most obvious problem being your nipple getting cracked and sore due to chewing instead of proper sucking.
- As your baby isn’t able to feed correctly, it might cause build-up milk in your breasts, leading to other issues such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, etc.
- If this continues, then it might also lead to a gradual decrease in the production of milk. There will be a low supply of milk due to improper feeding.
- Not being correctly able to feed your baby can cause a lot of guilt, in turn causing emotional stress to you as a mother.
Other Problems Caused by Tongue-tie
While breastfeeding is a common problem caused due to tongue-tie condition in a baby, there are other problems associated with this condition.
- There are specific pronunciation difficulties. As your baby starts speaking, they might not be able to enunciate certain alphabets such as ‘t,’ ‘z,’ ‘d’,’s,’ ‘th’,’r,’ and ‘l.’
- As your baby grows up and starts consuming food properly, tongue-tie condition can cause minor problems to them. They won’t be able to clear the remaining food debris from their teeth, which in turn can lead to tooth decay and inflammation in gums. It could also lead to a gap in the front two teeth.
- Further on, as your child grows, it can cause the day to day issues in their life. Not being able to lick ice-cream, licking lips, or play any wind instrument.
So, depending on the severity of the condition in your baby, you need to think about their present conditions and future issues. Then make a thoughtful decision.
Treatment for Tongue-tie
If your little one is experiencing breastfeeding problems and you have noticed all the symptoms regarding the issue, visit your pediatrician. They might either tell you to opt for surgery or not. This entirely depends on the severity of the condition your baby is in.
Babies with tongue-tie rarely need surgery to feed correctly. Often it is noticed that two-thirds of the babies with tongue-tie condition that were suggested surgery actually didn’t need it. With the right position and support, babies with this condition feed naturally, without requiring any surgery.
There needs to be a careful evaluation before suggesting surgery, assessing tongue function during breastfeeding, and tension of the tissues. When the stress is so much that the baby isn’t able to feed and losing weight, causing problems to the mother, then a procedure is done. A simple procedure is done to help babies in need of surgery called frenectomies, where the tongue tie is snipped.
The procedure in itself is easy and short, taking only a few minutes to perform. In very young babies, those who are a few months old, it is done without anesthesia (painkilling medicine) or with local anesthesia that numbs the tongue. The procedure does not seem to hurt the baby.
It can be done with a scissor or laser, preferring laser as it leads to less bleeding. The procedure is considered as low risk. After the procedure is done, the parent has to do some stretches of their baby’s tongue every day for 3 to 4 weeks to prevent the tissues from re-growing too tightly.
Overall, the decision to go for the surgery lies with parents and the doctor’s mutual judgment.
In some cases, where the surgery isn’t needed for your baby, speech therapy can help them a lot. The effects of tongue-tie can cause a problem in your baby’s speech; speech therapy can help them out.
Breastfeeding Before/After Tongue-tie Surgery
There are a few ways you can do order to latch your baby to your breast, to feed them properly. You can do these before or after the surgery. Regardless, these solutions might help your baby to feed properly.
- Your baby might find breastfeeding easy if you feed them frequently, which results in the softening of your breast and nipple area. You can also reverse pressure to ease the movement of fluid. You can also press with the sides of your fingers. Place one thumb on one side of the nipple and two fingers on the other side where your baby’s lips will be.
- Try holding your baby as close to your body as possible. A position where you are reclined with your little one, their stomach and chest are against you. This kind of breastfeeding is called biological nurturing, can be done with the skin to skin contact or lightly clothed. With the help of gravity, your baby’s tongue will move forward for an easy feed.
- Try opening your baby’s mouth a little further by pulling down their chin a little. Place your breast gently in their mouth, so they can feel the fatter part of your breast on their tongue and latch onto it.
- Try to engage their tongue mobility by helping them to lick as often as possible. Your baby can lick their lips or your nipple before and after feeding. Or you can pull out your tongue, so they can mimic you can try letting out their tongue as often as possible.
As a mother, if it hurts when you breastfeed your baby, and there is a gradual decline to them feeding with weight loss, tongue-tie might a problem you need to look into. Although not necessary with all babies, some babies might need surgery short and heal in about 48 hours.
Tongue-tie can also cause problems with your baby’s speech, for which you might have to seek a speech therapist, depending on the severity of the condition. There is absolutely no need to worry about the tongue-tie condition of your baby, as it becomes pretty standard in babies now. Surgery is also needed to perform when absolutely necessary, for which you need to consult with your pediatrician.
There won’t be any problem with breastfeeding after surgery, and to relieve your stress, I have mentioned some tips you can experiment with both before and after the surgery. I hoped this article helped you to sort out some of your tension.