Breastfeeding comes naturally to newborns. So the world would have you believe! But the reality is quite different.
Breastfeeding can be a battle for quite a number of new mothers. A wailing, hungry infant can lead to anxiety and depression. There are a number of reasons breastfeeding might be a struggle for you. But one cause that is often neglected is tongue tie.
What Is Tongue Tie?
Tongue tie or ‘anchored tongue’ is a common yet often neglected condition. About 4% babies are born with this condition, but it often remains undiagnosed.
A child is said to have tongue tie if the connecting skin under her tongue is short or extends far toward the front of her tongue.
If left undetected and untreated, tongue tie can cause many long term complications.
[ Read: Tonsillitis In Babies ]
What Causes Tongue Tie In Babies?
The exact cause for tongue tie is unknown. But it seems to run in families. So genes might have a big role to play in the occurrence of tongue tie children. So, if anyone in your family has tongue tie, your baby might have it too.
If you are having trouble breastfeeding your infant, you should get him checked for tongue tie. In an infant the symptoms of tongue tie manifest as:
- Irritability and fussiness
- Difficulty in latching
- Poor weight gain or weight loss
- Because your infant has trouble latching, she may end up chewing on your nipple. This can cause severe nipple pain
[ Read: How To Teach Baby To Latch ]
If left untreated, tongue tie can lead to more complications. Older children with tongue tie show the following symptoms:
- Altered structure and appearance of the face and teeth
- Difficulties in eating
- Digestion problems
- Delayed speech
- Difficulties in simple actions like licking ice cream
A physical exam will show additional symptoms like:
- Inability of the tongue to move past the lips
- Inability to touch the roof of the mouth with tongue
- Tip of the tongue that looks flat or square
- Tip of the tongue that appears notched or heart-shaped
[ Read: How To Ease Teething Pain In Babies ]
Tongue Tie And Breastfeeding:
The biggest fallout of a tongue tie is difficulties in breastfeeding. We all know the benefits of breastfeeding. For a newborn infant, breastfeeding is not just healthy but also a great way to bond with mom.
A baby with tongue tie loses out on the joy of breastfeeding. This condition makes the whole breastfeeding experience frustrating – both for the mother and child. You may visit a thousand lactation consultants, but until you treat the tongue tie, your breastfeeding experience will not improve.
Treating Tongue Tie In Babies:
The good news is that many cases of tongue tie correct themselves within the first six weeks of a baby’s life. Many other babies learn to live a normal life even with this condition. But there remains a vast number of children who need remedial measures.
Surgery is required to correct this condition. Once your doctor identifies the problem as tongue tie, she will recommend a Frenotomy. Your doctor may even refer you to a specialist for this surgery. Age is not an issue for this surgical procedure. It can be performed on a seven day old newborn as well as a 70-year-old.
The surgery in itself is pretty safe and cost effective. There is another option, a frenuplasty that can be used to free the tongue. But frenotomy can be done under no or local anesthesia. The problem with these surgeries is that a one-third of children needs to be re-operated to get complete recovery.
Tongue tie is not a dangerous condition. But it can lead to oral developmental delays as well as poor weight gain. If you think your baby has tongue tie, seek medical advice. Remember, only very severe cases of tongue tie require surgery.
So, go ahead and book a doctor’s appointment. The sooner you get it treated, the better it will be – for both you and your baby!
And don’t forget to drop in your feedback on tongue tie in baby in the comments section below!
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