There are a wide variety of issues and ailments that can afflict newborns. While each provides unique challenges, issues that interfere with feeding are of particular concern because of the vital role nutrition plays in development. One common condition that can severely impact a baby’s ability to feed is a tongue tie, and you can learn more about them below.
What is a Tongue Tie?
The medical term for a tongue tie is ankyloglossia and is the result of the skin connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth being too short. As a result, the tongue is anchored in the mouth and experiences reduced movement. Unfortunately, this condition is often missed in newborns and infants which can lead to problems breastfeeding as well as more severe issues as they grow older. If your baby has a tongue tie, please remember that there are currently no confirmed cause for this condition so there is no need to worry or wonder if there was something you could have done differently.
For mothers with babies that have a tongue tie, breastfeeding can pose a significant challenge. Since the newborn’s tongue is anchored in the mouth, it is difficult for them to establish or maintain a proper latch. Additionally, according to Mayo Clinic, “Breast-feeding requires a baby to keep his or her tongue over the lower gum while sucking. If unable to move the tongue or keep it in the right position, the baby might chew instead of suck on the nipple. This can cause significant nipple pain and interfere with a child's ability to get breast milk.” In terms, of long-term effects, a child with a tongue tie may experience mild to severe speech issues, gap formation in teeth, and the inability to do certain oral activities such as play a woodwind instrument.
Typically, a physical examination and diagnosis are required before anything can be done to correct the tongue tie. If the doctor deems it necessary or in the best interest of the child, they will typically recommend a frenotomy or frenuloplasty depending on the conditions surrounding the tongue tie. Both procedures involve removal of the excess tissue that is restricting the motion of the tongue.
For more information, check out this article on the UK’s National Health Service website.