Moms that I speak with having difficulty breastfeeding may be surprised at first to discover that their infant is tongue tied. This feeling is typically followed by relief: they may finally have some answers to explain the past weeks (if not months) spent without achieving breastfeeding success even with lactation consultant support. The presence of an overly taut lingual frenulum (the whitish cord underneath the tongue) in an infant can lead to a variety of breastfeeding problems for both baby and mom.
The symptoms reported by mothers are often the same:
- Baby falls asleep during nursing too frequently.
- Baby is not gaining weight.
- Nipple pain.
- Baby is fussy when breastfeeding.
- Air enters the baby’s mouth when trying to create suction, creating a discomfort.
- Poor or incomplete breast drainage
- Breast damage (which is particularly dangerous because sores can become infected)
What To Do When You’re Having Difficulty Breastfeeding
I’ve seen time and time again that a common first step moms choose when having difficulty breastfeeding is… to do nothing and see if it gets better. This is typically not the most ideal course of action to take, especially if the baby is not gaining weight and symptoms persist for a number of weeks. Attempting to figuring out the issue is key and should be done as soon as possible to encourage positive breastfeeding habits. I suggest meeting with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) right away. It is not uncommon to resolve breastfeeding struggles by adjusting nursing techniques and positioning under the guidance of a IBCLC.
Seeing a pediatrician is often another first step moms make. As reported in this publication, however, “pediatricians may feel unsure about their role when assisting the nonpatient, breastfeeding mother.” If tongue tie diagnosis and treatment was not part of their training, tethered oral tissues may be non-intentionally overlooked.
I recommend that any mother experiencing breastfeeding difficulties schedule a consultation with a reputable lactation consultant in her area. If a tongue tie is suspected, the consultant can refer the family to a dentist, pediatrician or ENT with the appropriate training in tongue tie diagnosis and lingual frenectomies.