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Dr. Helena Taylor Clinic

Helena Taylor Clinic

Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding: Top 5 challenging ways to successful nursing

Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding

Table of Contents

Tongue tie, clinically known as ankyloglossia, is a condition in which the thin piece of tissue (lingual frenulum) connecting the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth is shorter or tighter than usual.

Tongue tie, alias ankyloglossia can vary in severity, with some cases causing minimal impact while others may present challenges and complications. It is a condition that can affect individuals of all ages, from infants to adults. This can restrict the range of motion of the tongue, affecting its ability to move freely and perform various functions, such as breastfeeding, speaking, and swallowing.

This condition holds more than just a physical impact. It’s the invisible thread that tugs at the heartstrings of countless parents and their breastfeeding journey.

Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding

The tongue plays a crucial role in breastfeeding, and its proper function is essential for successful nursing. It is not only important for suckling milk but also for complete oral development.

Latching:

 A baby’s tongue helps create a good latch during breastfeeding. The tongue extends over the lower gum, creating a seal around the breast. This seal ensures a tight suction and helps the baby extract milk effectively.



Milk Transfer:

The tongue movement is vital for milk transfer from the breast to the baby. As the baby sucks, the tongue moves rhythmically in a wave-like motion, compressing the milk ducts and drawing milk into the mouth. Effective tongue movement ensures an optimal flow of milk, supporting adequate nourishment for the baby.



Compressing the Breast:

The tongue action of pressing against the breast helps maintain a proper latch and facilitates milk flow. By compressing the breast, the tongue aids in extracting milk efficiently and preventing nipple soreness or damage.



Swallowing:

The tongue coordination with swallowing is crucial for efficient breastfeeding. After drawing milk into the mouth, the baby’s tongue pushes against the roof of the mouth, propelling the milk backward towards the throat. This coordinated movement ensures successful swallowing and prevents milk from spilling out.



Stimulating Milk Production:

The baby’s tongue and sucking action stimulate the mother’s breasts to produce more milk. The rhythmic motion of the tongue triggers the release of hormones that support milk production and supply.



Oral Development:

Breastfeeding provides essential oral stimulation, promoting healthy oral development for the baby. As the baby uses their tongue to suck and latch, it helps develop the muscles and coordination necessary for speech, swallowing, and overall oral function.



Bonding and Comfort:

Breastfeeding creates a unique bond between the mother and baby. The intimate contact and interaction between the baby’s tongue and the mother’s breast provide comfort, security, and emotional connection during feeding sessions.

Understanding the Implications of Tongue Tie in Newborns

In the intricate dance of painless breastfeeding, a harmonious connection is formed between a newborn and their mother. Picture this: your little one’s tiny tongue effortlessly cups the bottom of your breast, while their lower lip delicately embraces the top. This perfect latch creates a world of nurturing bliss.

 

When tongue tie enters the scene, latching becomes a challenge. Your baby may struggle to latch at all, causing frustration and disappointment for both of you. It’s a heart-wrenching moment, witnessing your little one’s hunger go unsatisfied. Even if your baby manages to latch, it’s not all smooth sailing.

 

Tongue ties can pave the way for other breastfeeding complications. Mastitis, a painful breast
infection, can affect the mothers. Blocked ducts can obstruct the smooth flow of milk. And let’s not forget the worry of low milk supply, as ineffective latching inhibits proper milk extraction.

Identify the Common Tongue tie Symptoms in Your Baby

  • Poor latch
  • Clicking while nursing
  • Gassiness
  • Reflux/colic
  • Poor weight gain
  • Heart shape tongue (if anterior tongue tie)

Common Tongue tie Symptoms in Mothers

  • Discomfort/pain while nursing
  • Creased-flat-bleached nipple after feedings
  • Low milk supply
  • Plugged duct/mastitis

Exploring the Effects of Tongue Restriction Caused by Tongue Tie

There is always debate on when a tongue tie should be treated. Many parents wait to long with the hope of the condition correcting on its own. However, while doing so, one could be risking the oral development of the infant as well as impacting the speech development. This could have an impact on the social and emotional well-being of the baby as they grow up.

Speech Difficulties:

Tongue tie can interfere with proper tongue movement required for clear speech production. It may lead to difficulties in pronouncing certain sounds, particularly those that require the tongue to move freely, such as “t”, “d”, “l”, “r”, “s”. Speech may sound distorted, slurred, or unclear, affecting overall communication and language development.



Articulation Challenges:

The restricted movement of the tongue caused by tongue ties can disrupt the coordination between the tongue, lips, and other oral structures involved in speech production. This can result in difficulties with articulating specific sounds, leading to speech errors or delays. It means that it will influence the pronunciation of words.



Oral Motor Skills:

Tongue tie can impact the development of oral motor skills, which involve the coordinated movement of the lips, tongue, and jaw for eating, drinking, and speaking. Restricted tongue movement can affect chewing, swallowing, and sucking patterns, leading to challenges in feeding and overall oral function.



Dental Issues:

Tongue tie can contribute to dental problems, such as malocclusion (misalignment of teeth) and improper positioning of the tongue during rest. These issues can lead to complications like difficulty in maintaining oral hygiene, increased risk of tooth decay, and potential for orthodontic concerns later in life.



Social and Emotional Impact:

Persistent difficulties in speech and oral function due to tongue tie can impact a person’s self-esteem and social interactions. Children with untreated tongue tie may experience frustration, embarrassment, or low confidence, especially when their speech is not easily understood by others.

Early Diagnosis, Treatment, and Therapy

The person to know the earliest that a baby has a tongue tie is their mother. If you are having difficulties in breastfeeding it is better to get your baby checked by a professional who can evaluate the baby’s latch and assess if there is a tongue/lip tie.


When it comes to normal tongue tie or tongue tie surgery, preparation can make all the difference in ensuring a successful outcome. For parents navigating this journey, understanding what lies ahead and taking proactive steps can greatly support their little one’s progress.


So, let’s unravel the key elements for a smooth experience:


Preparing for the Procedure:

Knowledge is power! Familiarise yourself with what the frenotomy (tongue tie surgery) entails. Research reputable sources, consult with healthcare professionals, and ask questions to gain a clear understanding of the process. By being well-informed, you can approach the procedure with confidence.



Exercise and Stretch:

Just like athletes warm up before a big game, preparing your baby’s
tongue and lip muscles through gentle exercises and stretches can be immensely helpful.
Practice these techniques beforehand to help condition the muscles and improve their
flexibility, setting the stage for smoother post-surgery rehabilitation.



Pain Management Plan:

While every little one’s experience may vary, it’s important to have a plan in place for pain management if your infant seems uncomfortable after the frenotomy.

Consult with your healthcare provider to determine suitable options that prioritise your baby’s comfort while aiding their recovery.



A Written Care Plan:

The night of the frenotomy and the subsequent days and weeks can be crucial for optimal healing. Having a written care plan in place will serve as a valuable
reference, guiding you through the necessary stretches, exercises, and any additional steps recommended by your healthcare team. Remember, the aftercare is just as vital as the procedure itself.



But what if tongue/lip tie is not present, yet breastfeeding difficulties persist? In some cases, your baby’s challenges may stem from neck or jaw tension caused by labour or positioning in the womb. Consulting with a lactation consultant, osteopaths, and experienced doctors at
Helena Taylor Clinic can help identify the underlying causes and offer appropriate guidance
to address these issues.


Ultimately, by embracing the journey with knowledge, preparation, and a supportive care
plan, parents can pave the way for their baby’s success. The path to thriving breastfeeding and
oral development awaits, and together, we can unlock the potential hidden behind even the most intricate puzzles of normal tongue tie and tongue tie surgery.

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