While maternal nipple pain and damage are classic signs of tongue tie in baby, I have seen many cases where the mother reports absolutely no pain with breast-feeding. These babies tend to have very high palates and some times a weak suck (not always). The actual nipple in most cases is large and long and goes up into the palate where the tongue tends not to be able to pinch it as much. There may be creasing of the nipple, but usually not the classic damage seen with other presentations of tongue tie. These mother‘s bodies often compensate with a fast let down and over supply of milk. These babies trigger let down easily and the mothers body responds with freely flowing milk. Baby drinks from the fountain without learning how to stimulate the breast and empty it on their or or learning how to trigger new let downs. These babies often gain weight well or even faster than expected until around 3-4 months when they unexpectedly drop off the growth curve and mom feels like her supply suddenly drops. Symptoms often include clicking at the breast (caused by that high palate and the fast flow of milk) which in turn increases the risk of reflux, colic and gassiness. Moms also complain that they need to constantly hold or shape the breast or baby loses the latch. These ties often go undiagnosed and many of these babies are switched to bottles and formula as the supply continues to decrease from the baby inefficiently moving milk from the breast which can also coincide with mother going back to work. If she is using a poor quality pump or the wrong size flanges and not moving milk well with the pump, she’ll often blame herself for the low supply.
There are two kinds of ice in the ocean: icebergs and ice floes. Both can look identical on the surface, but are completely distinct below the water. Icebergs have a portion of ice seen above the surface, and huge, extensive mountains of ice below the surface, anchoring what you can see above to the masses below. Ice floes are seen from above and are basically a sheet of floating ice.
Tongue ties can also be classified into two types: tetherbergs and tether floes.
Tetherbergs are tongue ties that look tied on the surface, but the breastfeeding issues and symptoms are connected to so much more than just the tongue. Baby usually has lots of tension in the body. There may be a sensitive nervous system. A traumatic birth. Baby may live in a state of fight or flight. There may be other asymmetries or structural differences in the body. There’s so much more below the surface than meets the eye. For these babies, doing a revision of the tie is literally only the tip of the ice berg. They usually need lots of pre and post release manual therapy such as chiropractic or craniosacral therapy, occupational therapy, and suck training. It may be weeks to months before what is below the surface is fully addressed.
Tether floes are the babies I dream of in my practice. The tongue tie is the root cause of the breastfeeding problems and symptoms. A simple release is an overnight, miracle cure to nipple pain and damage, weight gain, milk supply or reflux. These babies usually need minimal additional interventions to restore the breastfeeding relationship and have all of their symptoms melt away.
Being aware of the tetherbergs vs the tether floes is the beginning to understanding your journey with a tied baby. Many families have their baby’s tie revised only to find they still have persistent symptoms. For them, the mass of ice below the surface must still be addressed before relief is gained. If you’re in the middle of your journey, keep going. Keep asking questions. Keep finding the highly trained health care providers who specialize in ties who can help.
For more information, see the original post by Michele Chatham
As an SLP/IBCLC, I look at three things when doing an assessment on infants: what does the tongue look like, what can the tongue do, what symptoms is it causing. The tongue needs full range of motion (in and out, side to side, and up and down ) for feeding, dental hygiene and to some extent speech. You can have a frenulum can still have good range of motion. A frenulum is considered tied when the tongue can’t move in all directions and it’s causing symptoms because it’s not functioning correctly.
Symptoms to watch out for are:
👅Can not grasp and hold a nipple for breast or bottle feeding
👅Pops on and off the breast/unable to latch or maintain the latch
👅Leaks milk from breast or bottle
👅Fatigues easily from tension on the tongue and jaw/“sleepy” at the breast
👅Wants to feed all the time and never seems satisfied
👅Causes nipple pain and damage when latched
👅Pinches the nipple when feeding causing recurrent plugged ducts and mastitis
👅Doesn’t empty the breast well causing low milk supply
👅Tongue constantly in a “stimulation” mode instead of efficient sucking at the breast, causing an over supply of milk with fast let down
👅Cannot create the vacuum needed to draw breast milk and makes a clicking or loss of suction sound at the breast
👅Poor weight gain
👅Chokes and gags during feeding
👅Fussy at the breast
👅Swallows air while feeding causing reflux, gassiness or colic
When range of motion is restricted, or is causing symptoms, I will refer to a pediatric dentist who also looks at how the frenulum is impacting structure: is it pulling on the structures of the floor of the mouth and the jaw? Is it putting tension on the bone? In those cases, when function is restricted and it is currently causing symptoms, a revision is warranted. I never recommend revision to avoid symptoms down the road. It’s not ethical.