I see babies every day with different digestive or feeding issues. Sometimes however, babies present with tongue-tie, a condition that can mimic the symptoms of reflux or colic. Below is some information on tongue-tie and what can be done to help this condition.
Tongue-Tie in Babies.
Most of us think of tongue-tie as a situation we find ourselves in when we are too excited to speak. Actually, tongue-tie is the non-medical term for a relatively common physical condition that limits the use of the tongue. Tongue-tie affects 3-10% of new-born 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.
For some babies tongue-tie will be almost un-noticeable. They will feed normally and as they grow, the frenulum will stretch and loosen so that their speech will not be affected. For other babies tongue-tie will be a problem, particularly when it comes to feeding. To breastfeed successfully, the baby needs to latch on to both breast tissue and nipple, and the baby’s tongue needs to cover the lower gum so the nipple is protected from damage. Babies with tongue-tie are not able to open their mouths wide enough to latch on to their mother’s breast properly. They tend to slide off the breast and grind on the nipple with their gums. This is very painful and the mother’s nipples can become sore. Some babies feed poorly and get tired, but they soon become hungry and want to feed again.
In many cases, these feeding difficulties mean the baby fails to gain much weight. Although it is often overlooked, tongue-tie can be an underlying cause of feeding problems that not only affect a child’s weight gain, but lead many mothers to abandon breast feeding altogether.
Bottle fed babies may also be affected but it is less obvious as less sucking is required compared to breast-feeding.
Baby Symptoms may include;
- Falls asleep while feeding
- Poor latch
- Slides off nipple during feeds
- Audible clicking noise while feeding
- Reflux Symptoms
- Poor weight gain
- Gumming/Chewing of mums nipples while feeding
- Short sleep episodes requiring feeds every 2-3 hours
Mum’s signs and symptoms may include;
- Cracked, bruised and blistered nipples
- Creased, flattened, or blanched nipples after breastfeeding
- Bleeding nipples
- Severe pain when baby attempts to latch
- Poor or incomplete breast drainage
- Mastitis or nipple thrush
- Plugged ducts
If you have any concerns about your baby or you think your baby may have tongue-tie, you should always see a Lactation Consultant or your Public Health Nurse.
Our Lactation Consultant at The Children’s Clinic is Mary Cullinane.
Frank Kelleher, Cranial Osteopath
The Children’s Clinic
Model Farm Road