The term “tongue tied” refers to a tongue that is quite literally “tied” by a frenulum. The frenulum is a (usually) thin, fibrous band that connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The mere existence of a lingual (tongue) frenulum is not an indicator of a problem. The important thing is whether the frenulum restricts the movement of the tongue to impact function.
One of the vital roles of the tongue for a baby is for feeding. Your baby depends on her tongue for sustaining a vacuum, moving the milk to the back of her mouth and swallowing. These things are important whether a baby is breastfeeding or bottle feeding. But when a baby is breastfeeding, the function of the tongue is more critical because incorrect tongue movement/placement equals sore nipples for mommy!
How do you know if your baby is tongue tied? Take a minute to observe your baby with these questions in mind:
Do your nipples looked creased or flattened after breastfeeding?
Does your baby have a hard time latching?
When your baby cries, does the center of his tongue look “’stuck” to the floor of his mouth with just the edges curling up?
When your baby sucks on your finger, do you feel the lower gums?
Does your baby seemed stressed with a fast flow of milk?
Do feedings take a long time? Or is baby feeding very frequently?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, Your baby may be tongue tied! Check with an experienced lactation consultant to be sure. She will examine the baby—paying close attention to tongue movement. She will also observe the baby feeding. After a thorough evaluation, the lactation consultant may recommend that the baby have his frenulum clipped. After this very brief procedure (it literally takes about 1 second!) most mothers and babies notice an immediate difference in breastfeeding.
Written by Renee Beebe, M.Ed., IBCLC. Renee is a lactation consultant in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is available for home/hospital visits and phone consultations. Renee can be reached at www.second9months.com