If you look in a mirror, open your mouth, and lift your tongue you’ll see a little strip of tissue connecting the tongue to the mouth – the frenulum.
This ligament may be tiny but it can cause some big problems. If a baby is born with a frenulum that attaches too far up the tongue it restricts the way the tongue moves. You’ve probably heard of this condition as being tongue-tied.
Rather than tripping over words, babies who are tongue-tied have difficulty with their ability to suck and swallow, which can cause problems with breastfeeding. Speech problems and poor oral hygiene can develop with toddlers and young children. In some cases, tongue tie can even hinder the ability to breathe properly while sleeping.
While the long-standing medical practice has been waiting for the child to grow out of it unless the tie impacts feeding, recent research is showing that early correction can aid in eliminating any symptoms that occur in toddlers and young children. After all, it would be better for a child to have freedom of speech from an early age rather than go through months or years of speech therapy.
The process of correcting a tongue tie is a simple one; just a small nick in the frenulum and movement is restored. This can be done one of two ways, either with a small pair of surgical scissors or with a laser treatment. Both can be done as an office visit and take only a moment, and baby can nurse right after. Using a laser decreases the chance of scar tissue forming at the site, but both forms of correction require daily exercises during the healing period.
If you’re worried about tongue tie in your baby some signs to look for are: a dip or heart shape to the tip of the tongue, an inability for the tongue to come out past the lips, or trouble with breastfeeding such as poor latch, painful or cracked nipples, or blocked ducts. Any doctor, dentist, or lactation consultant can confirm a diagnosis.
Personally, I recommend Dr. Lawrence Kotlow in Albany. He is a pediatric dentist who is known internationally for his innovative techniques in that field. He is very supportive of the breastfeeding relationship and has seen babies as young as one-day-old start the corrective process. You can find out more about him at www.kiddsteeth.com or by calling 518-489-2571.
Naomi Starsiak is a birth and postpartum doula, a natural birth consultant, and the co-owner of A Peaceful Birth doula & childbirth service. You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/APeacefulBirthDoulas. Have a question? E-mail it to Naomi at firstname.lastname@example.org.