Breast-feeding is no easy feat but for some moms, it can be downright miserable.
The culprit? Tongue-tie, an often overlooked condition that affects breast milk supply and baby’s weight gain, and can make breast-feeding not only difficult, but painful.
Here, find out what tongue-tie is, the signs you should look for and what you can do to make sure you and your baby are healthy for a lifetime.
What is tongue-tie?
Ankyloglossia, or tongue-tie, is a condition that restricts the movement of the tongue. We all are born with a frenulum, the membrane that attaches the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. In some babies, the frenulum is too tight or too short.
“If that piece of membrane is placed on an unusual spot on the infant’s tongue, it may restrict the movement of the tongue,” said Irene Zoppi, an internationally board-certified lactation consultant and clinical education specialist for Medela.
Studies show that tongue-tie affects up to 10 percent of babies and it can also be hereditary.
There are two types of tongue-tie and varying degrees of severity. An anterior tongue-tie is very easy to see and is characterized by a frenulum that’s attached to the front of the tongue. For some babies, they may not be able to stick the tip of their tongue beyond the lower lip. Or when they cry the tongue will look heart-shaped because it’s so restricted.
A posterior tongue-tie happens when the frenulum is attached just to the base of tongue. It’s less obvious, but a practitioner can pick it up by looking closely at the movement of the tongue.
Low milk supply and pain
“When a baby’s having trouble nursing, it’s not unusual that a common reason is anatomical,” said Dr. Julie L. Wei, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fla.
This is because the way a baby’s tongue moves when he breast-feeds is much different than when he drinks from a bottle.