Is your baby facing any difficulty while breastfeeding? It could be because of the tongue-tie condition. Express Parenting got in touch with Dr Asmita Mahajan, consultant neonatologist and pediatrician, SL Raheja Hospital, to answer all your questions on tongue-tie.
What is tongue-tie?
Tongue-tie or ankyloglossia is a congenital condition that is present since birth. There is a mass of tissue which attaches the tongue to the base of the mouth. Normally, when the baby is developing, this opens up and the tongue becomes free. If it does not completely separate, it can cause tongue-tie. In this case, the tongue cannot be protruded out of the mouth properly. Babies who have this cannot protrude their tongue beyond the lower front of the teeth.
Tongue-tie can be of two types. It can be an anterior tongue-tie, that is the tip of the tongue is attached to the base of the mouth. It can also be a posterior tongue-tie, where the tissue attaches the back portion of the tongue to the base of the mouth.
Why does it happen?
There is no particular known reason for tongue-tie although some say that there may be genetic factors involved.
What are the signs of tongue-tie?
It can be a very mild version of the tongue-tie. That will be noticeable only if you really see how the baby is protruding the tongue out. A doctor will be able identify it better. If it is a severe type, that is the tip of the tongue is attached to the floor of the mouth, parents will notice that the tongue appears notched or heart-shaped.
Can tongue-tie affect a baby’s eating capabilities?
Tongue tie can cause problems in breastfeeding. If the mother is getting sore nipples again and again because of a poor latch of the baby on the breast, they should consult the doctor who has to look for this deformity.
There may not be any eating issues in case of a mild tongue-tie. But a moderate to severe tongue-tie can lead to eating difficulties in the form of the child not being able to chew well or suck or lick ice cream for example. Even while chewing, they tend to collect the food in the mouth and are not able to swallow easily since of all these functions require the movement of the tongue.
Can tongue-tie affect a baby’s speech?
Yes, it can affect the baby’s speech later on. A mild tongue-tie may not cause any of the problems. In a severe case, the baby will face either a delay or some difficulty in speech, especially in case of the sounds like ‘d’, ‘th’ or ‘r’ which need the use of the tongue since it may not touch the roof the mouth. The baby then needs to be referred for speech therapy.
How do you treat tongue-tie?
Severe tongue-tie will need treatment in the form of a tongue-tie release operation. This a minor surgery in which the tissue which binds the tongue to the mouth is cut or released by the pediatric surgeon. There may be some soreness in the area for a day or two if the procedure is done when the baby is really small. Within a few days, the baby then starts to feed normally. The mother can actually make out difference in the latching of the baby before and after the surgery. Not just paediatricians, even lactation experts are trained to look for tongue-tie in the baby.
On an average, how many cases of tongue-tie do we have in India?
Mild tongue-tie is quite common in babies although severe cases of tongue-tie are rare. There are not too many babies who will require surgery.