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TONGUE TIE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Breastfeeding is supposed to be this beautiful, natural, easy thing. The baby comes out, roots, reaches the breast, latches on, sucks and feeds! Sounds easy, right?  Not so much!! Many (if not most) of the mamas I know and the patients I care for struggle in the beginning…and almost all (who are dedicated and want to breastfeed) are successful with a little help.

One of the hurdles with breastfeeding that I have learned SO much about both personally and professionally in the past few years is tongue tie. About six years ago, I trained with the head of otolaryngology (the ear, nose and throat doctor) at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego to learn about tongue ties: how they affect breastfeeding and how a quick procedure can help provide relief for moms and babies.

Then my baby was born and of course, she was tongue tied! I got to learn firsthand about the struggles that come with this condition and experience relief with a simple, in office procedure.

What exactly is tongue tie?
Tongue tie is a condition that restricts the tongue’s range of motion. It’s a thick or tight band of tissue (called the frenulum) creates a tight connection from the bottom of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. This may prevent someone from be able to stick their tongue out and it can make breastfeeding a challenge.

How does it feel if you’re trying to breastfeed a baby who is tongue tied?

  • Do your toes curl under with pain with latching?
  • Does each suck send a sharp pain through your nipples (and sometimes through your body)?
  • Do you have pain unlatching?
  • Do you want to cry at the thought of latching your baby when she wakes up and cries with hunger (ok, maybe this was just me)?

This was me! I got to a point where I was in too much pain to latch my baby. I pumped and gave her my milk until I was able to address her tongue. Sometimes I would be pumping when she woke up wailing with hunger. I only had drops of milk and I had to supplement her with a bottle of formula while I was hooked up to the pump, thinking “this is so inefficient! If only I could get her to take it straight from the tap!”

How do you know if you baby is tongue tied?
One quick look by a CPCMG pediatrician or lactation specialist and they’ll tell you right away if this is the case.

What can be done to correct tongue tie?
If your baby has tongue tie, a frenotomy can be performed to correct the condition. Here’s what you need to know:

  • It’s a quick, easy procedure with a trained pediatrician (the longest part of the procedure is the set up)
  • The piece of tissue (frenulum) keeping the tongue from extending past the baby’s gum line is “clipped” (cut)
  • Babies feed right away! There’s no lasting pain and recovery is quick.
  • Moms will have instantaneous relief!
  • There’s less trauma to the baby and quicker recovery than a laser procedure (cautery to the mouth- ouch!)

CPCMG pediatricians and Lactation Specialists are trained to identify tongue tie and many of our pediatricians are trained in performing frenotomies. If you are struggling with breastfeeding pain, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us – we are here to help!