Sometimes it’s clear-cut and other times, well…..it takes us a little longer to figure out exactly what’s causing the chronically sore nipples mom is experiencing with breastfeeding. With an anterior tongue time, a rooky could spot it. You can see the tongue tethered to the bottom of the FRONT of the tie. Some are so tight, that the tongue actually comes into a “heart-shape” when the baby cries. One quick, clean clip, one drop of blood, and the fear of nursing disappears. Additionally, the high risk of speech-language problems down the road, may also be erased.
Parents often show me their own tongues when I ask “who else in the family is tongue-tied?” Some of these moms and dads had been through speech-language therapy and others tell me that they never found it a problem at all. One mom told me her own mother wasn’t able to breastfeed her as a baby and never knew why, until I pointed out that she couldn’t even stick her tongue out. Isn’t that a prerequisite to being a little kid? I mean, what are you going to do when another kid is mean to you……hello?
I admit that, before I understood the difference between an anterior and posterior tongue -tie, I worked more with moms latching than babies sucking. Then I realized, after attending a conference, how to detect and diagnose this phenomenon. You have to place your index fingers (pointing in) on either side of the underneath part of the tongue and……low and behold……a little string-like frenulum may just pop up.
That little string is called a posterior tongue-tie and can cause just as many problems as the more obvious anterior tongue-ties. When you sweep your finger under the tongue from one side to the other, you actually feel a little speed bump.
Last week, I was told by one of my moms, that her husband had taken care of her tight frenulum….I then asked if he was a dentist or ENT surgeon….but NOOOOOO, it turns out that he’s just a really, really “passionate” kisser!!!! Yup, he broke her frenulum with his own tongue….YIKES!
My final problem is called a tight labial frenulum and it’s located in the middle, under the upper lip. Many kids break them during toddlerhood when they fall and hit their mouths on a coffee table or some other lovely item in the home. When left unclipped, they can result in a gap-toothed smile (ala David Letterman). Dentists usually discover them and sometimes want them clipped before the permanent teeth erupt. With babies, it can prevent them from curling up their upper lip to help latch at the breast.
One key to solving tongue-tie problems, as described above, is to find an experienced lactation consultant and ENT surgeon, who specialize in diagnosing and understanding how tongue-ties can negatively impact a nursing relationship and milk supply.