Some moms may notice their babies’ tongue not moving when they cry, while other moms note feeding difficulties in their baby. All these point towards a tongue tie. So, does tongue tie affect eating solids? The answer is yes.
Whenever a mom comes to me with complaints of feeding difficulties in her little one, I make sure to assess the baby’s tongue for ties as it is a common reason for the problems with feeding. Keep reading to learn more on tongue ties and what to do about it.
- How does tongue tie affect eating solids?
- Does tongue tie also affect breastfeeding?
- Signs and symptoms of tongue tie
- What are the treatment options for tongue tie?
Table of Contents
What is a Tongue Tie?
Moms, one of the reasons your baby isn’t breastfeeding or taking solids properly could be that she has a tongue tie. A Tongue tie, also called ankyloglossia, is a medical condition where a tight band of tissue holds down a baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth. As the name implies, this “tie” limits your baby’s ability to move her tongue, which proves to be a major issue when it is time to eat. Tongue ties are congenital, which means your baby is born with it, and if left untreated can also affect how she speaks.
How does a Tongue Tie Affect Eating Solids?
The tongue is an important organ that plays a vital role when speaking, eating, sucking, swallowing and tasting. When it comes to eating solids, the tongue helps your baby to mash the solid food into a more semi-solid form, making it easier to swallow. Also, the tongue initiates the process of swallowing solid meals. These unique functions of the tongue require movement, and eating solids can be difficult with severe tongue tie where the tongue is not mobile. This can lead to difficulties in chewing food and also swallowing food, sometimes causing your baby to choke during feeding.
Does Tongue Tie also Affect Breastfeeding?
Yes, tongue tie affects breastfeeding too. Going back to the functions of the tongue, we see that the tongue plays a vital role in latching onto the nipple, sucking and swallowing milk. If your baby’s tongue is tied and not mobile enough, she may encounter difficulties in latching and sucking during breastfeeding.
Signs and Symptoms of Tongue Tie in your Baby
As a mom, it is important that you know what to look out for to raise suspicions of a tongue tie.
The Signs and Symptoms Toddlers and Older Children May Show Which Suggests a Tongue Tie Includes:
Gagging or choking when eating solids
As stated earlier, the tongue plays a vital role in helping your toddler mash and swallow solids. In the case of tongue tie, the tongue is unable to move adequately, and as such cannot perform its function to help your baby swallow their meals. This can cause your little one to choke on their meals or gag frequently while eating.
Food preferences of faddism that persist for a long time
Food faddism is common in children, but when it persists for a year or more, it becomes worrisome, especially if your child’s food preference is not healthy enough. This could also suggest a tongue tie as your child may gravitate towards taking softer semi-solids rather than hard solids.
Problems with speech
The tongue plays a vital role in helping us speak, and as such, any condition affecting the tongue will most likely affect speech. You should know that tongue tie will not affect your baby’s language or ability to speak, however, your baby may encounter difficulties pronouncing certain letters or words.
Tooth decay and infections
The tongue helps to sweep food debris from the teeth, and if a tongue tie is present, this function will not be present. Coupled with bad oral hygiene, this can cause cavities, gingivitis and tooth decay.
Signs and Symptoms of Tongue Tie in Babies Less Than One Year Include:
You have pain or injuries on your nipple while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, so if it hurts, there’s a problem. If your baby has a tongue tie, chances are she won’t latch properly onto your nipple, which will cause more strain on your nipple. This may ultimately lead to cracked nipple or pain while breastfeeding. There could be other reasons for pain while breastfeeding other than a tongue tie. Please talk with your pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant if you are concerned.
You keep having clogged ducts or mastitis
Mastitis is a condition where your milk ducts are clogged due to excess milk. Normally, your baby should be getting all that milk, but with a tongue tie, she’s unable to suck properly and so not draining your milk. You are then left with excess milk in your breasts which can clog up your ducts and cause mastitis.
Your baby eats less frequently for shorter time periods
As a result of the tongue tie, your baby may be unable to feed as long and as frequently as she should. This is because she is experiencing difficulties in sucking, and as such can get tired and stop feeding out of frustration.
Your baby makes clicking sounds when feeding
This clicking sound happens when the seal established after your baby latches to your breast or the nipple of a baby bottle is broken. Tongue tie makes it harder for your baby to latch on, and the seal that should be created ends up being broken several times during breastfeeding.
Your baby’s tongue remains flat when crying
Normally, when your baby is crying, her tongue should be elevated at least to the middle of her mouth. With tongue tie, your baby’s tongue remains flat on the floor of the mouth or curls a little by the sides to form a V-shape when she is crying.
Your baby has recessed chin and a high arched upper palate
In normal conditions, your baby’s tongue should place some pressure on the upper palate of the mouth, helping the palate achieve a broad and flat shape. However, with tongue tie, the tongue is secured to the floor of the mouth, leaving the upper palate to have a high arched or “bubbled” shape. Additionally, tongue tie can cause your baby to have a recessed chin, although genetics has a role to play.
Your baby isn’t gaining weight as she should
This is because your baby is not eating well as such, not getting enough nutrients that she needs to grow and gain weight.
Treatment Options for Tongue Tie
Tongue tie is treated by a doctor in a procedure called frenotomy. It is a simple procedure which involves cutting the tight band of tissue called the lingual frenulum that ties the tongue to the base of the mouth. There are usually no complications, and babies recover very well without any need for speech therapy.
An alternative mode of treatment is conservative treatment which does not require surgery. Here, your baby will receive lactation training and speech therapy to help your baby cope with the tongue tie and improve their feeding and speech.
As a mom, it is always good practice to pay close attention to your little ones, especially when it comes to their eating habits. From my experience, most of the childhood illnesses and conditions that were caught and treated early were as a result of very caring and awesome moms who brought their children to the hospital because they weren’t eating well. As trivial as it sounds, how kids eat can tell you a lot about their health.
Tongue ties can be distressing for you as a mom and your kid, so it is important that you are able to spot it and take your child to the doctor as soon as possible to receive expert advice.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.