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Tongue Tie or Ankyloglossia, is a condition in which the Lingual Frenulum, the piece of skin that attaches to the tongue at the bottom of the mouth, does not allow proper movement of the tongue for the baby. This makes breastfeeding more difficult. Some babies have a mild tongue tie while others are more severe. The more severe cases have tongues that are more restricted and short therefore, the baby is not able to breastfeed efficiently. Furthermore, the baby has to work harder to get breast milk out. In fact, for some babies, as they get older, their eating as well as their speech may be affected. This is when options for treatment come into play.
The exact numbers of babies affected is hard to establish however, some reports estimate it to 5-10% of babies born. Tongue tie is usually present at birth and hereditary, where I see as a Lactation Consultant that another family member has had it. Therefore, I am always careful to ask about family history of tongue ties when I suspect one on the baby.
The baby with a tongue tie will have a shallow latch, often sucking the mother's nipple and breast in the wrong way. In my practice, Breastfeeding With Love, in Houston, Texas, I have seen many moms with bleeding nipples. That is because the baby has latched on wrong and needs to be evaluated to see if they have a tongue tie. This is where I come in, as a Lactation Consultant, we are trained to diagnose a tongue tie, and refer the baby to their pediatrician who may refer the baby to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, and clip the baby's tongue. Tongue ties can be diagnosed by other health care professionals such as your dentist, surgeons or speech language pathologists too. After this procedure, a proper latch can be achieved.
A Frenotomy, is a procedure where the Frenulum, is snipped with of course, a sterile scissor under local anethetics or very little at all, depending on the doctor. I have been told by my moms that the procedure is quick and not painful, with very little blood. Furthermore, the baby heels quickly so, at least this part is good because moms hate to see their child suffer. Usually, the baby will go right back to breastfeeding after the procedure and the mom will probably notice a better latch and less soreness on her nipple right away.
In conclusion, tongue tie can cause severe problems in some babies and needs proper attention. It is important to be informed about all your medical options once your baby is diagnosed. This will help you make the right decision for your baby and both mom and baby will benefit greatly.