What is tongue tie?

Tongue tie is an abnormal attachment of the frenulum under the tongue. It usually affects breastfeeding. It should be diagnosed at birth but, unfortunately, very often it gets missed during the initial newborn examination.

A posterior tongue tie (or  submucosal tongue tie) occurs when the deeper frenulum is hidden under the mucus lining of the tongue and floor of the mouth. It is easily missed because it can only be seen and felt through a special manoeuvre.

As for anterior tongue tie, it is when the tongue is tied to the floor of the mouth by a membrane near or at the tip of the tongue. This can be easily seen and diagnosed, while the posterior tongue tie needs an expert to diagnose. Every anterior tongue tie will have a posterior tongue tie behind it.

How does it affect breastfeeding?

For breastfeeding to be successful, the baby’s tongue has to do several motions to transfer the milk effectively. This includes extending, lifting and cupping in a rhythmic motion to create the necessary vacuum that pulls the milk out. In case of tongue tie, the baby will not be able to do so efficiently and will try to use his gums on the nipple, which will be very painful to the mother.

What are the signs to look out for?

Babies with tongue tie usually have a poor latch, often make a clicking sound, feed frequently, fall asleep during feeding and have frequent digestive problems like burping, excessive gas and reflux. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned, or you experience pain during breastfeeding, then you should have your baby checked by someone who has expertise in tongue tie

What is the treatment for tongue tie? 

Once the diagnosis of the tongue tie is confirmed by an expert then it should be surgically released. The tongue tie procedure should not be performed with scissors; in my clinic, I use Radiofrequency that gets the job done in few minutes, with no damage to adjacent tissues, faster healing and no bleeding or stitches.

Key points:

  • If the baby is gaining weight it does not mean there is no tongue tie
  • A baby with anterior tongue tie will usually have a posterior tongue tie as well
  • If a breastfeeding mother has a poor latch or pain, there is a good chance her baby has tongue tie
  • Tongue tie can affect breastfeeding, handling solid foods and even speech in the future
  • Posterior tongue ties are often misdiagnosed as short tongue
  • A baby with tongue tie may be able to stick out his tongue
  • The mother of a tongue-tied baby will eventually suffer from decreased milk supply due to lack of proper stimulation
  • Lots of babies who are very gassy, burp a lot or have reflux are suffering from tongue tie

 

Dr Medhat Abu-Shaaban heads up MyPediaClinic in Healthcare City, where they see patients from 0-18 years of age and accept most insurances. MyPediaClinic.com

Read more:  

Newborn 101: Practical advice for your first few months of parenthood from a Dubai midwife 

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Dubai’s Baby Whisperer: How to adapt infant sleep routines for life in the UAE