For any new parent, the thought of anything being wrong with their sweet little bundle of joy is scary. Fortunately, in most cases, a tongue tied baby is nothing to be overly concerned about. Tongue tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is a condition in which the piece of tissue which connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth (the frenulum) is unusually shorter in length than what would typically be seen. For older kids and adults, this may result in restricted speech, which may require speech therapy. The phrase “to be tongue tied,” refers to a person who is unable to speak in public, or may stammer when doing so. Fortunately, for most people, this condition does not cause any great issues with speech or ability to eat and swallow, however, depending upon severity, it may require medical intervention in the form of a surgical procedure.
Usually, in most cases of tongue tie, the frenulum will recede on it’s own within the first year on life and presents no additional problems with speech development.There is no reason to be too concerned for a tongue tie baby if he or she is still able to drink. Tongue tie may potentially cause latch problems for breastfed babies. Because an improper latch could have a negative impact on a baby’s nutrition and result in possible weight loss, a visit from a lactation consultant would be advisable. Other common issues that nursing mothers may experience from breastfeeding a tongue tied baby with an improper latch include mastitis, nipple trauma and plugged ducts. A lactation consultant is well trained in how to effectively breastfeed a tongue tied baby and will help mothers achieve an appropriate latch technique to work around the issue.
Many times, the severity of the tongue tie will depend on the placement of the shortened frenulum. Typically, the further up the tongue that the frenulum deficiency is located, the more likely a child is to experience feeding problems, as well as speech development problems down the line. If the tongue tie is found to have a negative impact on the baby’s ability to feed, then a simple procedure called a frenectomy can be preformed. This simple, outpatient procedure is preformed in office by a trained physician and is relatively quick and painless (the pain being no worse than getting one’s ears pierced). In this procedure, the physician simply clips the frenulum to allow the tongue more room to move and the amount of blood is minimal. After this procedure is completed, the baby will attempt to feed in order to ascertain whether the feeding difficulties have been resolved. Many physicians, however, prefer to not preemptively cut the frenulum, instead waiting to see whether the tongue tie will have a negative impact on the child’s quality of life. While this procedure was routinely preformed in the 19th century, many physicians are reluctant to do it now, except in cases where the baby’s ability to feed is severely restricted and causes a negative impact on weight gain.
Fortunately, most babies are able to thrive just fine with ankyloglossia. As many tongue tied babies grow and develop during their first year of life, the frenulum lengthens and matures and no further complications arise. However, there is a simple surgical procedure which can also correct this relatively harmless issue.