Tongue-tie and your Lactation Consultant ally

February 12th, 2016

A Lactation Consultant specialist in tongue-tie is crucial to solve your breastfeeding issues when you have a tongue tied and lip tied baby. Research has shown that International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) promote a longer duration of breastfeeding. Exposure to an IBCLC in early postpartum increases the rate of exclusive breastfeed to 6 months and prolongs its duration after introduction of other foods. One study results showed that 53% of patients with an IBCLC visit were breastfeeding at 4-6 months compared with only 23% of patients not seen by the IBCLC.


tongue tied baby

IBCLC assessing tongue-tie

Lip tied baby

IBCLC assessing lip-tie

Tongue-tie has been known for a long time. Midwives used to clip it with their fingernails. However, it seems that more babies are being diagnosed with it lately. This is happening more now because more mothers are breastfeeding. In the past, breastfeeding was not well promoted thus less babies showed issues during feeding. Nowadays, it is known that tongue-tie affects not just breastfeeding but also regular feeding and speech. This results on compensations of the oral and airway functions. This happens because the tongue is not just a separated member of the body. It functions as an organ since it is connected to the neck, head and back through nerves and connective tissues.

Tongue tied babies may be able to live without doing a tongue-tie release. However, the body has to compensate for the malfunction of the tongue so babies may:

  • get tired through the feeding;
  • eat every hour to fulfill their caloric needs;
  • have suck blisters on their lips due to the wrong use of facial muscles;
  • prefer one breast than the other due to tightness of the body;
  • gag through feeding and consequently become meticulous eaters;
  • have airway issues due to their high narrow palate.

As a result, their growth milestones may be delayed and they may be even diagnosed with failure to thrive. Some symptoms of a tongue-tie baby on the mother are:

  • pain through breastfeeding,
  • nipple damage,
  • decrease on milk supply,
  • mastitis,
  • plugged ducts,
  • nipple vasospasm,
  • depression,
  • anxiety.

The symptoms on the baby are:

  • he/she may act as if he/she is never satisfied,
  • has decreased output,
  • weight loss,
  • gas,
  • colic,
  • reflux.

These symptoms can also be related to other issues as well. One more reason you should have an IBCLC specialist in tongue-tie working with you. She can use her knowledge to assess your feeding issues and do an individualized plan of care for you and your baby.

Nowadays, many mothers are self-diagnosing their tongue tied and lip tied babies or tethered oral tissues (TOTs) due to the easy access to information through the Internet. They may locate providers that release their tongue tied and lip tied baby. However, not every provider does a full release of the tied frenulum. Besides, the frenotomy is just one of the steps for a successful release of the frenulum. This is a process and not a quick fix!

IBCLCs are the bridge between a DDS or ENT and a CST or Chiropractor. However, for some people it seems that IBCLCs are dispensable since breastfeeding is a womanly thing and peer support from other mothers seems to be enough. On the contrary, Lactation Consultants are an essential key when a mother is dealing with any feeding issue that a peer-to-peer support cannot solve. It is important to work with an IBCLC, so she can evalaute the whole picture and provide an individualized plan of care for the dyad and refer to providers that are most knowledgeable for the mother-baby’ specific needs. A tongue tie and lip tie lactation consultant specialist will provide anticipatory guidance of pre and post surgery. Moreover, she will be there through the whole process to guide and support you and your baby.

When moms who are going through this challenge skip the Lactation Consultant, they have to start to compensate for the malfunction of the tongue and/or lip of their baby. They become dependent on the use of nipple shields, bottles and pumps. As a result they are not able to successfully breastfeed or they end up weaning earlier than they had planned. As a result, infants are at increased risk to develop leukemia, asthma, diabetes type I and II, childhood obesity, ear infection, allergic diseases, atopic dermatitis, necrotizing enterocolitis, higher infant mortality and SIDS. Mothers are also at increased risk to develop breast and ovarian cancer, heart attacks, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and obesity. Furthermore, these mothers will experience increased financial expenditure in formula and the treatment of diseases that could have been prevented and they will spend their valuable time shopping, preparing and cleaning bottles and teats.

Mother, IBCLC and other providers (dentist, ENT or other health care provider that releases the frenulum, and body workers) must work together as a team, so more mothers can achieve their breastfeeding goals successfully.