I’m just going to throw this out there. My first breastfeeding experience wasn’t magical. I was tired, in pain, drugged up, numb from the waist down and suddenly my baby was placed on my chest and I was told to nurse her. I put her straight on the breast and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, while she knew how to suck, she didn’t know how to latch (turns out there’s a knack to it) and two days later she was looking rather jaundiced and I was yelping in pain.
We persevered. Me in agony, her screaming (like that ‘just had my leg chopped off’ screaming that babies do), but after what felt like an eternity (six days), I limped into my local health clinic begging to see a lactation consultant. A quick check up revealed that Baby Boo was tongue tied, which is a relatively common, yet under-explored problem that occurs on the underside of the baby’s tongue. Basically, the little piece of skin that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is too short and causes tightness, often resulting in nursing difficulties. Suddenly all those futile feeding sessions fell into place. Naturally as a new mum I had a heap of questions, so I’ve put together this blog about what all new mums need to know when it comes to tongue ties.
Tongue Ties: #1 How common is tongue tie
According to the NHS, tongue tie affects 4-11 per cent of newborns. It is more common in boys than girls and can run in families.
Tongue Ties: #2 Can it cause problems?
The tongue obviously plays a major role in breastfeeding, so a tongue tie, which effectively restricts movement, can certainly hinder your baby’s nursing habits. As a consequence babies with tongue tie are more at risk to weight loss and static weight, while nursing mothers may experience nipple pain and soreness.
Tongue Ties: #3 What is the treatment?
This is the rabbit in headlights moment for all new mums, but the good news is that the treatment for tongue tie is a simple procedure called a frenulotomy. After applying a local anesthetic your doctor or lactation consultant snips the base of the tongue in order to free up movement. It’s so quick many young babies don’t even feel it (my little one slept through), but sometimes older babies require a general anesthetic.
Tongue Ties: #4 What are the symptoms?
Most of the time a tongue tie will be picked up during baby’s first routine check. However, that is not guaranteed, so if you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your pediatrician.
- Pain during breastfeeding
- Baby fussing during feeds and pulling off frequently
- Heart-shaped tongue
- Baby making clicking and/or choking noises while feeding
- Baby doesn’t stick out her tongue when crying
- Noisy breathing/snoring sounds when feeding
- Baby has a weak suck and poor feeding reflex
Tongue Ties: #5 What problems can an untreated tongue tie cause?
It’s true that some mild tongue ties don’t actually have an impact on breastfeeding. However, it’s always important to have your baby checked by a doctor because an untreated tongue tie may also cause speech, eating and breathing problems, which can stretch through to childhood and sometimes adulthood.