The rise of Tongue Tie

The rates of babies showing evidence of Tongue Tie are increasing, anecdotally out of some of our recent Antenatal Courses as many as 7 out of 8 babies born, were diagnosed with Tongue Tie of some kind, and this isn’t unusual.

I have heard people say that Tongue Tie diagnosis “in vogue” right now, but we deal with women on a day to day basis. Women who feel the pressure to breastfeed and find themselves flailing without support in many cases. Tongue Tie either being missed and not spotted, or mum being advised that the tie is “minimal”.

Tongue Tie isn’t just about nipple pain, or failure to thrive, though these are two obvious signs. We have had a huge increase in the diagnosis on Reflux & Colic over the last few years. Now I believe some of this is down our expectations of what is normal in a newborn (see previous blog), but also down to our breastfeeding rates & Tongue Tie issues. The last UK Wide infant feeding survey was conducted in 2010, where BF rates were up 76% from 2005, but exclusive BF at 4m was still only 12%.

Why Is Tongue Tie assessment important?

When a baby feeds it needs full mobility in the tongue, watch this video to further understand how the tongue works in breastfeeding.

Symptoms of Tongue Tie:

  • Nipple Pain

  • Poor weight gain

  • Prolonged feeding

  • Excessive crying

  • Gulping air (wind, tummy pain)

These are not exclusive to Tongue Tie but it is worth considering. If baby is unable to feed effectively it WILL lead to problems (breast or bottle).

Reflux, Colic & Tongue Tie:
Reflux & Colic diagnosis’s seem to be on the rise, and the amount of babies medicated for one or the other is increasing.

Reflux & Colic are a set of symptoms, these include:

  • Excessive Crying

  • Back Arching

  • Pulling off mid feed

  • Projectile vomiting

  • Tummy Pain

When a baby shows these symptoms mum will usually take baby to the GP, depending on the GP Reflux may be diagnosed, and if mum is breastfeeding she may be encouraged to switch to formula and/or baby will be given medication (usually gaviscon or ranitidine).

If baby has a Tongue Tie it could either not be transferring enough milk so those symptoms could be hunger, or baby may not have a good seal over the breast, and could be drawing off too much air (this can be defined as “clicking” when feeding).

A baby’s digestive system is immature and developing. Cows milk can be very hard for some humans to digest. Lactose intolerance & CMPA (Cows Milk Protein Allergy) are on the rise. We seem to be the only species who actively seek out and drink the milk of another.

If there is a family history of atopy (asthma, eczema, allergies) cows milk may prove more problematic for a tiny baby to digest, leading to digestive issues (colic/reflux).

Breastmilk is the ONLY milk totally designed for YOUR babies digestive system, and mum should be encouraged to continue to breastfeed with reflux symptoms. She should however, be supported with dietary changes (possible elimination of dairy etc) and latch support to ensure baby is feeding as effectively as possible.

If baby is bottle fed, Tongue Tie can still cause issues, the tongue is an important mechanism in all aspects of baby feeding.

Photo Credit - Milk Matters

Photo Credit - Milk Matters

Diagnosing Tongue Tie:
Some ties can be very hard to spot, This should be done by a properly trained professional, you can get support with this through the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain.

There is no such thing as a “minor tie” babies tongue is either restricted or it isn’t.

Treatment for Tongue Tie:
Tongue Tie Division is a really simple procedure. It can be done at the baby’s home or in the consultants clinic. Different NHS trusts have different procedures, so many parents will turn to a private consultant. Again this needs to be a properly trained and qualified consultant and one can be found here Association of Tongue Tie Practioners

Risks of Division:
Risks of division are detailed by the Evelina Hospital London as:

  • A small amount of bleeding

  • A short-term, intermediate infection

  • The Tongue Tie growing back

It is therefore really important that you see a properly qualified practitioner who will give you suitable aftercare advice.

Breast feeding doesn’t come naturally to many, it can be hard. The way to ensure the best outcome for breastfeeding is getting properly, qualified support. We place so much emphasis on breastfeeding, but supply such little support.