Tongue Ties and Breastfeeding

As a mom of two young children, I can appreciate how stressful it can be if your baby is not eating enough. Some babies struggle a lot to latch onto a bottle or the breast. It often can take a lot of support from a lactation consultant or cranio-sacral therapist/bodyworker in order to find the correct position, posture and to relax the baby’s muscles enough that they can latch properly.

Other babies can only bottle feed even though the mother would rather be breastfeeding. This can lead to a lot of frustration as well.

Oral restrictions- like tongue or lip frenums which restrict movement can sometimes explain why a baby may have difficulty latching to breast or bottle. In my research, one thing I fully appreciated was how some babies can adapt easily to restrictions and others can have a lot of difficulty. It is not black and white. What works for one baby may not work for another.

A “frenum” refers to the tissue under the tongue that connects it to the floor of the mouth. In some babies it is thin and elastic and in others it is thick and fibrous. In some it connects at the base of the tongue and in some it connects at the very tip of the tongue. In some babies, the frenum can restrict the movement of the tongue and the baby is not able to adapt. A “tongue tie” is used to describe a frenum that is restricting the movement of the tongue. A “lip tie” similarly restricts the movement of the lips.

It is often difficult to figure out if your baby has a lip or tongue tie if it is deeper and not as easily visible. If you do find out your baby has one, it is also difficult to decide what to do if your baby has a frenum that is restricting tongue or lip movement.

A frenectomy is a procedure where that tethered tissue is “released” by making an incision with scissors or laser. This allows the tongue to be able to move and can help achieve a better latch to a bottle or breast. But when is this procedure appropriate? And will it work?

Lactation consultants often work with babies to achieve a better latch when breastfeeding, but they often can not overcome these anatomical restrictions.
CSTs or bodyworkers are providers that can help a baby that has difficulty latching due to muscle tightness or cranial nerve function. They also can often not overcome an anatomical restriction. A dentist or medical doctor are able to diagnose a restrictive frenum or tongue tie.

After having 2 babies and my extensive research in the role of oral sensory information in the suckling process, I decided to invest in continuing education to be able to diagnose oral restrictions and to be able to perform laser frenectomy or tongue/lip tie release surgery.

At our tongue tie clinic at Holman Family Dental Care, we have a multidisciplinary approach to care. We have Ayden from Harvest Moon Bodywork and Victoria from Durham Lactation on site to provide care.

All appointments are one-on-one. You will have a thorough assessment from Victoria, a full 45 minutes of bodywork, a diagnosis from myself and a laser frenectomy if needed. After the procedure, you will receive guidance from Victoria to learn some strategies to be successful. Follow-up with other providers may be recommended depending on the situation.

The laser we have is a CO2 laser, the LightScalpel. This soft tissue laser does not emit heat and cuts while cauterizing the tissue leading to minimal scar tissue and a quick, accurate procedure. The laser is used within my practice for a wide range of procedures including infant frenectomy.

To learn more about our tongue tie clinic and the providers – check out our website or call the office.