I feel like all I write about these days is breastfeeding so apologies if I’m boring people to death! It’s just that I’m in the middle of it and finding it such a positive experience that I want others to have the information that might help them get to this stage too. If you read my last post about my current breastfeeding experience you’ll know that it’s going relatively well. However, early on when things were difficult, I was told by a lactation consultant that my baby had a posterior tongue tie. She didn’t feel it was causing problems though. So here’s a brief explanation of tongue tie and what my experience was.
What is a tongue tie?
Tongue tie (or ankyloglossia) is when the movement of the tongue is restricted due to a membrane connecting the base of the tongue to the base of the mouth. It can be very obvious to look at and result in the baby being unable to stick their tongue out or it can be very far back (posterior or mild tongue tie) and not obvious to someone untrained to find it.
Why is tongue tie an issue?
Tongue tie is not always an issue. Where it can cause problems is when it causes baby to have a shallow latch on breast and ends up causing trauma to the nipple and inefficient feeding. When I say inefficient feeding, I mean baby can take a long time to feed and may not be emptying the breast. It can also cause speech problems later on. Please note that nipple trauma is not always caused by tongue tie. It is more common in boys and according to the NHS, tongue tie is estimated to affect 4-11% of newborn babies.
Why aren’t all tongue ties released?
Studies (please contact me for a list of studies) suggest a mild tongue tie doesn’t always cause breastfeeding issues. Although tongue tie release is a simple procedure, it has to be carried out by a doctor trained in the procedure, usually an ENT specialist. If you are not breastfeeding then the procedure isn’t carried out until the child is older if it is causing speech problems. Finally, a tongue tie can be snipped and there might be no improvement to the breastfeeding so it is not always the answer. This is why paediatricians are reluctant to look for, or diagnose, tongue ties on the maternity ward as it is very early to ascertain if they are causing feeding issues. However, if it’s something that is causing you concern then ask the paediatrician there and then,
What do I do if I think my baby has a tongue tie that’s causing breastfeeding issues?
Firstly, get it diagnosed. The best way to do this is by having a consultation with a IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). They can refer you publicly or privately to get the tongue tie released if they feel it is causing problems. You can also make an appointment privately with a practitioner that releases tongue ties if you are sure that it is there and causing a problem.
My experience with tongue tie
I had been using nipple shields as my baby had difficulty latching on and then maintaining the latch without the shields. I don’t have a problem with them but it’s the inconvenience of feeding out and about having to remember to bring one and fiddling about trying to get it in place discretely and then latch baby on. The lactation consultant said he had a tongue tie but it was very posterior and very unlikely to be causing problems; he was well able to stick his tongue out. I put it to the back of my mind but it was always there and I debated with myself whether I should get it released anyway just in case. I had been advised to go for osteopathy which I did. After one session I was unsure if it had made a difference as I was still using the shields. I called the lactation consultant and asked her to do the referral for the tongue tie release. She did, and at 10 weeks of age, I brought my baby to have the procedure done. Again, I was met with doubt as the ENT specialist looked at the tongue tie and said similar to the lactation consultant; it was a VERY MILD case, the procedure was HIGHLY UNLIKELY to make ANY difference. I actually felt guilty that I was putting my baby through the pain for possibly nothing but stood firm and said I wanted it done just in case. It took 30 seconds. He cried of course and the mammy guilt increased tenfold. I fed him straight after the procedure needing the nipple shield to latch him on. I didn’t expect an immediate difference especially after all I had been told. However, that night he fed without the nipple shields. And 2 weeks later he’s still feeding mostly without the shields (sometimes if he’s very hungry or upset I’ll start him with the shield and then take it off after a few seconds). There is no nipple trauma or pain. Now, maybe I just wanted it to work so badly that I tried extra hard with the breastfeeding after? Maybe he would have got there with the latch as time went on regardless? Maybe. However, I feel it really did make all the difference for us. I also have a very strong feeling that tongue tie was the issue with my first baby and why breastfeeding did not work out there. As mums, we need to trust our own instincts and stand firm.