August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Breastfeeding, in general, is a process that requires patience and commitment on everyone’s part, and when a baby isn’t latching, an additional element of stress is introduced to the equation. When babies have difficulty latching onto the breast or a bottle they may fail to thrive and this is not only dangerous for the baby but extremely stressful for the parents.
Thankfully, there are so many resources for getting support with any issue that may arise with feeding. New parents can compile a support team that may include a lactation consultant, doula, chiropractor, massage therapist, craniosacral therapist, and other health/wellness supporters in order to help them find a comfortable feeding position, head, and body posture, and to help relax the baby’s muscles enough so that they can latch properly and get the nutrients they require. Sometimes, the issue is more than a head or body position though, and Ankyloglossia is actually restricting the movement of the baby’s natural feeding reflexes. The help of these supporters is invaluable but sometimes their work cannot overcome an anatomical restriction that is creating difficulty latching properly.
Ankyloglossia originates from the Greek words ‘‘agkilos’’ (curved) and ‘‘glossa’’ (tongue). The English synonym is ‘‘tongue-tie’’ or “lip-tie.” You’ve probably heard the expressions, “tongue-tied,” or “lip-tied” and wondered what they actually mean. Both refer to an oral condition that happens when a thin stretch of tissue in the mouth is overgrown. This tissue is called the frenum. When your frenulum is either too large or too thin, it can cause issues with breastfeeding or latching, speech patterns, and teeth misalignment. Often, when the frenulum is too large in infants, it can disrupt or impede breastfeeding. Most notably, a baby with an overgrown lingual frenum may have difficulty nursing, taking a bottle, and swallowing. Consequently, these infants may not gain weight and ultimately fail to thrive because of being tongue-tied. Other signs that a baby may be tongue-tied include:
- Fatigue or irritability during feedings
- Clicking as the baby tries to suck
- Dribbling milk at the breast or bottle
- Digestive issues such as gas, reflux, vomiting, and a distended stomach
- Nipple pain and breast infection in the mother
- Insufficient milk supply in the mother
When this is the case, a frenectomy is needed.
So, where are the frena located? There are actually two frena in everyone’s mouth. One is under your tongue and is called the lingual frenum. There are two others that are called labia frenum. These are located at the center of your lips and connect the inside of your upper and lower lips to your gums.
What is a frenectomy? A frenectomy is a procedure where the fibrous, tethered tissue is released in order to allow the baby’s lips and tongue unrestricted movement. This will in turn help the baby achieve a better latch to a bottle or breast. A frenectomy is a simple procedure that can be achieved by us in-office in as little as 15 minutes. We will first want you to come in for a consultation to determine if a frenectomy is suitable for you or your child.
If you feel that your child might suffer from lip-tie or tongue-tie, come see us at Mountainview Periodontics. At your visit, your baby will have a thorough assessment and diagnosis from Dr. Butler or Dr. Riffel. She will discuss her findings with you and make recommendations. If necessary, she can complete a frenectomy for your baby. After the procedure it is recommended to have a follow-up appointment with your lactation consultant and possibly your other support team members, depending on the situation. Schedule an appointment today!