Most of us think of tongue-tie as a situation we find ourselves in when we are too excited to speak. But tongue-tie is the non-medical term for a relatively common but often overlooked physical condition, that limits the use of the tongue.
Tongue-tie affects 5–10% of newborn babies and is more common in boys than girls. Normally, the tongue is loosely attached to the base of the mouth with a piece of skin called the lingual frenulum. In babies with tongue-tie, this piece of skin is unusually short and tight, restricting the tongue’s movement. The medical name for tongue-tie is ankyloglossia. Tongue-tie can run in families, with some only mildly affected, and others whose function is severely affected.
We see babies with tongue tie presenting at our clinic most weeks. In most cases the parents may not even realise there is a tongue tie. They will bring their baby along because of reflux symptoms or other digestive issues. Once the tongue tie is pointed out to them, and the signs and symptoms are explained, it’s like a light turning on! It all makes sense now.
That was the case with Sharon and Dan who brought their 3 month old son Luke to see us recently. Luke was breast-fed and although he was Sharon’s third baby, she felt he wasn’t as good a feeder as her other two children had been. He had been diagnosed with reflux and had started medication but with very little improvement. His weight gain had slowed down a little but Sharon felt this was due to the constant spitting up.
Frank discussed Luke’s feeding history with Sharon and Dan and it soon became clear that Luke and Sharon had ticked quite a few boxes for a tongue tie diagnosis. On examination Frank noticed a possible tongue tie and so referred Luke to a Lactation Consultant for formal diagnosis.
The Lactation Consultant confirmed the diagnosis of a tongue tie and Luke for then referred for treatment. He was reviewed at the clinic the week after his tongue tie was released. His digestive issues were completely resolved and Sharon said he was feeding so much better. He was due a weight check later that week but Mum felt very sure he had put on more weight.
Some tongue ties are diagnosed early as they cause quite severe discomfort for both mum and baby. Others are more subtle and may not be diagnosed till later. Some medical practitioners are better able to diagnose a tongue tie than others. If you are a breast feeding mum and if you feel this is something your baby may have, you should see a Lactation Consultant for diagnosis.
We also recommend cranial osteopathy both before and after tongue tie release. The key to treatment is the re-balancing of muscular tension in the front and the back of the neck. Prior to having the tongue tie release, the baby’s tongue has been anchored to the floor of the mouth and unable to form a good latch. The neck and jaw muscles have been used to create the latch and that becomes exhausting for the baby when feeding.
Once the tongue tie is released the baby will learn to orientate the movement of the tongue to deepen the latch. I use very gentle techniques to ease tension in the muscles of the neck and the jaw to allow the baby’s latch to improve. Re-balancing of the neck muscles will allow the baby to rotate to both sides more easily and have the head in a neutral position for feeding. Improving rib-cage movement, allows an improved suck-breath-swallow mechanism to occur when baby is feeding.
Cherished Baby and Child gives you all the information you’ll need to recognise tongue tie in your little one. We list the signs and symptoms in baby and mum and also explain how its treated.
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