For many new mothers, breastfeeding is an equally exciting and frightening challenge. We all hear about sore and swollen nipples and the difficulty in finding the right nursing position. Conversely, an issue first time mothers may not learn about until they experience it, is the phenomenon of a tongue tied baby.
What is Tongue Tie?
While the name suggests your newborn is having trouble with difficult words, it actually refers to a physical condition which can inhibit nursing. A tongue tied baby (medically speaking, this is called ankyloglossia) has a short frenulum.
Five – ten percent of newborns suffer from this phenomenon. It can appears at a different severity levels. Light and mild cases can go unnoticed. In severe cases, the baby’s frenulum is so short that she cannot elongate her tongue past her lips and so breastfeeding becomes hard and even impossible.
How can you identify the problem?
There are basically three signs that may raise a red flag
- The baby may find it difficult to raise her tongue or move it freely from side to side.
- The baby will not be able to fully push the tongue out of the mouth.
- The tip of the tongue has a heart or V-shape.
Your infant may suffer from either anterior or posterior tongue tie. The former means that the tie appears behind the tip of the tongue. In the latter case, the tongue has very little frenulum showing or none at all.
Keep in mind, this classification does not denote the seriousness of your child’s condition. If she is unable to lift her tongue properly, she will most likely experience breastfeeding problems regardless of whether the tie is at the front or back of the tongue.
There is a simple and effective solution
Not every tongue tied baby is facing feeding difficulties. But if you notice your child is not latching properly or not getting enough milk when she eats, visit your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
If a tongue tie is discovered, your baby may require a procedure referred to as tongue-tie division. It’s a simple medical intervention that includes the clipping of the frenulum. Many pediatricians know how to do it, and it is blood and pain free (It’s usually performed without anesthetic). The majority of infants heal quickly. Complications are very rare.
To sum up, a tongue tied baby shouldn’t cause too much concern. Once the problem is identified, assistance is available. A simple medical procedure will immensely improve your baby’s ability to nurse.