Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

Tongue-Tied? Do not shy away from feeding concerns. 

With so much to do and learn as a new mother, knowing when and what to discuss with your healthcare provider may feel overwhelming. Whether you have chosen to breastfeed or use a bottle, you may need clarification on what feeding concerns to address with a professional. After all, it is hard to be aware of things we do not know. 

Breastfeeding mothers, have you noticed your infant coming on and off the breast frequently? Is your baby getting too tired to finish eating or making a lot of noise while eating? Is your child feeding all the time but not gaining weight? Oh, and what about those breasts? Are your nipples pinched or creased when the infant unlatches? Are you experiencing nipple pain while breastfeeding or have a low milk supply? Don’t be tongue-tied; talk with the professional of your choice. 

Bottle-feeding mothers need to look for signs as well. Have you noticed your infant dribbles or leaks the formula around their mouth? Is the baby swallowing a lot of air? Is your child getting tired quickly while feeding? If so, make sure to discuss these symptoms with your healthcare professional. You will be surprised at how much information your provider will give you once you ask. 

All kidding aside, having a tongue-tied infant is something to be aware of.  Ankyloglossia (pronounced ankle-o-glos-see-a) happens when the middle of the tongue does not elevate. Because the tongue seems stuck or tied to the floor of the mouth, the term tongue-tied was born. When checking your baby for this, look at the shape of their tongue. When the child is tongue-tied, the tip of the tongue may look like a little heart. This shape forms when the tissue that attaches the baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth is too thick or short. 

While it may seem like an old wives tale to hear that children are born with their tongues tied, it is a common medical condition in around 25 percent of births. This complaint has a wide variety and severity, and not all infants with this problem will require medical attention. The main concern is whether or not the child has restricted tongue motion, which limits the infant’s feeding ability. It does affect more boys than girls. 

When feeding does not go as expected, remember that feeding problems are multifactorial and, in most cases, can be resolved with expert support. Parents should never blame themselves because the feeding is not going as planned. If a parent is frustrated or concerned, seeking professional help is best. You can turn to a pediatrician, OB/GYN, or lactation consultant to help identify and overcome this and other feeding challenges. Do not let yourself be tongue-tied. Speak up and find out.  You will feel better afterward. 

If your child is tongue-tied, do not be alarmed. Professionals may suggest non-invasive therapies to help the baby overcome feeding challenges. If your child has a more severe case, an in-office procedure called a Frenotomy may be recommended

The Frenotomy is quick and straightforward and can help free the tongue, allowing it to move more efficiently. Parents concerned about this condition should address it sooner rather than later, as most pediatricians will want to perform this procedure before the child is 12 weeks old. Newborns have thin frenulums and minimal bleeding and tend to forget about it shortly after. Nursing or even bottle feeding may take place immediately afterward.  

A Frenotomy improves nursing and bottle feeding in most cases. When feeding, the infant must be able to make a seal around the nipple. Breastfeeding mothers may experience pain when the baby cannot seal around the nipple properly, causing them to gum instead of sucking. This procedure does not always improve feeding, but it usually does, and there is minimal downside. 

Parents, please note that even after having the procedure breastfeeding may not improve, and being tongue-tied may not be the entire reason for your babies’ feeding difficulties. Also, be aware that an infant with tongue-tied issues rarely has mechanical matters in speaking or oral hygiene. Yet, it may cause articulation problems in the child’s ability to pronounce certain sounds. 

When there are concerns about breastfeeding or bottle feeding, do not let yourself be tongue-tied about them; have a conversation with the professional of your choice. 

Helping your child grow to their full potential is the end goal; talking to your health providers about feeding issues will help your child do that. Parents, you are the best advocates for your children, and learning how to speak up when necessary is a skill that will help you NOT become a tongue-tied parent. 

If you would like help finding resources near you, please contact Help Me Grow at 801-691-5322.

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