Research suggests that one in ten babies could suffer with a tongue-tie but many go unassessed. A tongue-tie is caused by a short or tight membrane under the tongue and can cause a lot of issues for babies when feeding. Although some babies have a tongue-tie and do not experience any difficulties at all.
Babies are often checked for tongue-tie at birth, however when the tie is further back (posterior) it can be difficult to diagnose. Even when a baby’s tongue-tie is noticed, many health professionals are now reluctant to resolve it or decide to take a watch and wait approach before snipping it. This is especially the case for babies who are bottle fed, which seems unjust as more attention is paid to the latch of a breastfed baby.
Problems caused by tongue-tie
Babies with a tongue-tie will often have a poor latch, whether breastfed or bottle fed. This poor latch can result in your baby taking in excess air which then sits in the tummy, creating colic like symptoms of crying, pulling up knees and bloated tummy.
The tongue-tie can also contribute to reflux symptoms too. As the extra air (caused by the poor latch) can push the feed and acid contents of the stomach back up the oesophagus it then results in both physical reflux and silent reflux.
Signs of a tongue-tie
Since it can be difficult for health professionals to recognise a tongue-tie, just by looking the tongue is not a sure sign of knowing if your baby has a tongue-tie or not. Here are some signs to be aware of if you suspect that your baby may have a tongue-tie:
- Can’t latch well
- Tends to chew more than suck
- Poor weight gain
- Feeds for a long time, takes a short break, then feeds for another long stretch
- Is fussy when trying to feed
- Makes a clicking sound while feeding
- Seems hungry all the time
If you suspect that your baby has a tongue-tie then there are experienced practitioners who are specifically trained to carry out tongue-tie assessments and to assess tongue function. To find your local practitioner then the Association of Tongue -tie Practitioners can provide you with further information https://www.tongue-tie.org.uk/
If the assessment confirms the existence of a tongue-tie and an impact on feeding has been proven, a frenulotomy (division of the tie) is usually carried out.
Every baby is different
After the surgery, some babies will immediately see an improvement in their condition. However some babies will take some time to recover and to latch as the sudden freedom of the tongue movement will make babies feed differently. I have clients who report that their baby is immediately better and their colic symptoms has disappeared and their contented baby has returned. However I also have clients who reported that they had to feed their baby by syringe for a few days and it took a few weeks before a noticeable improvement.
What to take from this is that every baby is different and the effect of a tongue-tie will have a different impact on each baby. If you suspect your baby has a tongue-tie and you believe that it is causing their colic symptoms then see a specialist tongue-tie practitioner for an assessment.