When a baby latches to the breast, the baby needs to cup the tongue around the niple, keep the tongue out over the gum line, and shape/form the nipple in the mouth while using the lips to seal the cavity to prevent milk from spilling out. This whole progress creates negative pressure, or a vacuum, in the mouth. The tongue then pumps to compress the breast to remove milk. In reality it’s quite the complicated process!
It’s the up and down pump action of the middle of the tongue that is essential for creating a vacuum (negative pressure) inside the mouth for baby to efficiently move milk from the breast. Babies need to be able to protrude the tongue out past the lower gum line AND MAINTAIN IT protruded for the duration of the feeding.
Many parents who have a tongue tied baby will describe breastfeeding with words like “pinch, chomp, bite, and gum”. OUCH. That is because a tongue without full range of motion can’t do these two actions: up and down and SUSTAINED out. If a health care provider told you your baby doesn’t have a tongue tie because baby could stick their tongue out, that single action is not enough. A full assessment makes sure the tongue can stay protruded to cup the nipple and not flick back after every few sucks. This flicking back is what causes the “chomp” or “gumming” sensation. If the middle of the tongue is restricted, that is where baby cannot generate and maintain the negative pressure in the mouth to be efficient at expressing milk. That is why many of those babies fatigue and are sleepy at the breast, feed for a really long time and then are still hungry. They often doing better on a bottle where they only have to compress the nipple to get milk (you don’t need the vacuum seal in the mouth on the bottle to still express milk and when you can’t maintain the seal that’s where the milk leaks out of the mouth).
Think your baby has a tie but you’re not sure what to do next? Consider taking my Tied & Untied class. Click here to enroll
Need some exercises NOW to help your baby’s tongue? Hop over to my YouTube channel for many videos on helping your baby learn to use their tongue. This VIDEO helps baby’s tongue move in all the right directions and can help get your baby ready for a tongue tie release.
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There are many informational videos on my YouTube channel to help on the next stage of your journey.