Tongue-tie: Simple Diagnosis or Symptom?
Apr 26, 2017 12:06PM
By Hilary Bilkis, LMT
What is a tongue-tie? Tongue-tie happens when the string of tissue under your baby's tongue (frenulum), which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short. The medical term for tongue-tie is ankyloglossia. The frenulum does not stretch and it is not a part of the tongue. It is a band of connective tissue. The tongue may be tied at the tip or further back in the mouth. Tongue-tie has implications for nursing infants. Challenges that may occur include:
- Baby fusses at the breast because she is finding breastfeeding uncomfortable.
- Clicking during feedings when baby can’t maintain suction.
- Baby does not open his mouth wide.
- Baby does not maintain a good latch and milk leaks from her mouth.
- Baby gags easily because he cannot move his tongue effectively.
The mother also struggles with her own challenges: sore nipples, abrasions, sore areola and even mastitis as a result of her baby struggling to suckle. Additionally, if not addressed tongue-tie has can also cause swallowing and speech issues in older children.
The remedy for tongue-tie is called a frenotomy or a revision. This involves clipping the tissue with surgical scissors or a laser. Post revision you must massage under the baby’s tongue to prevent scar tissue adhesions. Frenotomies are not a cure all. Often, tongue-tie is a symptom of other soft tissue restrictions that are present in the infant’s body.
Torticollis (wry neck)
This condition may result from being confined in the womb during the last eight weeks of gestation or develop through a difficult birth process. In response to these stresses, the infant’s body directs the soft tissues of the body to contract and tighten to protect themselves. Relaxing, however, may require assistance.
A baby with torticollis may always tilt the head in one direction or have difficulty breastfeeding on one side. She may get frustrated when she can’t turn her head completely. The stiffness in the shoulders and the neck can translate into tension in the throat, mouth and face. Additionally, she may also have tension going down her back creating misalignment of the pelvis and hips. These babies often seem uncomfortable in their bodies and may be hard to soothe.
Soft Tissue Tongue Restrictions
Nursing involves a complex suck-swallow-breathe sequence. Thirty one muscles in the lips, cheeks, tongue, jaw, chin, soft palate and throat coordinate the feeding process. Critical to the tongue’s function is the hyoid—a horseshoe-shaped bone—which is the foundation of tongue and it is found floating at the throat, suspended in position by the muscles above and below it. Strain on any of the muscles or in the throat and neck which attach to the hyoid may also affect the tongue.
Healing After Healing
After tongue-tie has been corrected, mom and baby often still struggle with their breastfeeding relationship. CranioSacral Therapy (CST), has been shown to help relax mother and child, and allows them to get in sync. CST is performed with a very gentle touch and focused intention, that allows stressed tissues to unwind, soften and release. Work is done at diaphragm, chest, throat, under the chin, cheeks, mouth and the entire spine to release the accumulated tensions. The infant can be treated while nursing, and often calms a fussy baby.
Benefits for Mother and Child
CST is most effective when received during the first few days or weeks of life—the earlier, the better. The benefits of early CranioSacral Therapy include: helps baby open mouth wider, have a better seal on the breast, suckle more efficiently so the mother has less pain while nursing, regain full range of motion in the neck, breathing patterns improve, baby is calmer and easier to soothe. When the nursing relationship becomes easy and enjoyable, mom and baby can bond better. Both are less stressed and everyone is happier!
Hilary D. Bilkis, LMT, MS, CST, is owner of Awakening Wellness in Morristown. A gifted healer and intuitive, Hilary combines light touch therapies with energy healing customized to individual
needs, and received her training in CranioSacral Therapy through The Upledger Institute.
Location: Awakening Wellness, 14 Pine St., Suite 8, Morristown. 973-479-2229. Awakening4Wellness.com.