How to Deal with Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding

tongue tie and breastfeedingTongue Tie, also known as Ankyloglossia, is a problem that occurs in a baby’s mouth on the underside of the tongue. With this condition the frenulum , the little piece of skin that attaches your tongue to the bottom of your mouth, is too short or tight. The babies tongue often look heart shaped when they try to stick out the tongue when licking or crying.

Tongue Tie and Breastfeeding

How common is it?

Tongue tie can effect from 2-10% of newborns. It  is more common in boys than girls and can run in families.

Does tongue tie cause problems?

A tongue tie will prevent your baby from breastfeeding properly as the movement of the tongue is restricted. Babies with tongue tie are more vulnerable to weight loss or static weight.  Babies with unresolved tongue tie  may  go on to have speech problems such as a lisp, dental problems, eating problems or breathing problems.

What is the treatment?

If severe enough to be effecting baby feeding then you may be offered a frenulectomy. This is when a small clip is made into the frenulum to divide it. It’s a low-risk procedure and causes very little bleeding. Baby will be able to nurse straight after. UNICEF has created a list of hospitals in the UK where this procedure can take place.

If the tongue tie is not severe your midwife, lactation consultant or health visitor will be able to guide you on how to feed baby effectively.

Tongue Tie Symptoms

Usually a tongue tie is detected soon after birth when the midwife or paediatrician gives baby a full check over. Contact your midwife, health visitor or GP if you are experiencing any of the following signs:

  • Notched  or heart shaped tongue
  • Tongue does not stick out when baby cries
  • Painful latch
  • Baby pulls of breast frequently
  • Baby makes noises when breastfeeding
  • Choking or Crying with feeds
  • Jaw tremors when feeding
  • A feeling of ineffective breastfeeding

These signs are not exclusive to baby having a tongue tie but may help to diagnose baby. Seek advice from your health care professional.

Tips for tongue tie and breastfeeding

 Concentrate on a deep latch by presenting the  nipple to the babies upper lip. This way baby with throw baby his head back, opening wide and mum can encourage baby to latch with the lower lip rather that the tongue. The same effect can be achieved by positioning the areola onto the lower lip. An upright position can help baby control the milk flow if he frequently chokes during feeding.

If your nipples are sore or feeding is frustration mother and baby, then I suggest using a breast pump. This way baby can return to breastfeeding after treatment.

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