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Well aren't I venturing into dangerous territory here? Everyone has their opinion right? Everyone gives conflicting advice right? Well guess what? It doesn't have to be that hard. Tongue and upper lip ties are so common that I will now routinely use a specialised oral and physical assessment to work out if your baby or child needs treatment or not. The bottom line is, there are varying degrees of tongue and lip ties and a personalised assessment needs to be made by someone who knows what they are doing and have experience in managing them. For the purpose of explaining a dysfunctional tongue or lip tie, I will refer to them as "oral restrictions". The reality is, it is a global issue whereby there aren't many experts that can help with oral restrictions - this is why I do FaceTime Consults and this is why I have colleagues doing clinics interstate on a weekly basis to help families.
When I first became a lactation consultant, I was led to believe that a baby's tongue will grow and then they will be able to latch with ease. I was also led to believe that if a mum has flat or inverted nipples, she would not be able to breastfeed without great difficulty. Well - that is kind of true, but honestly, it's really not. Mother nature designed babies to breastfeed - mother nature did not know that formula existed. So historically (before formula existed) babies were always breastfed or given breastmilk, even if it wasn't from their own mother. When a baby or mother cannot breastfeed, there is ALWAYS are reason. It is not normal to experience pain when you breastfeed. Yep, there is ALWAYS a reason! It may not be lip or tongue ties but, yes they are really common and not all need to be cut but can be managed with non invasive therapy.
Oral restrictions don't only affect babies who breastfeed, they affect babies that bottle-fed too. They even run in families, so its likely that relatives have it too and its also likely why other children have had difficulties as well. Oral restrictions even affect adults. The oldest Australian successfully treated with an impaired tongue tie to date is in their 90's. So how do you know when a tongue tie needs to be treated? Any feeding/eating issues such as taking too long to feed/eat, miserable/irritable behaviour, poor sleeping, may or may not have good weight gains, gagging easily, and experiencing swallowing difficulties. Other breastfeeding issues can present as recurrent mastitis and nipple thrush, insufficient breastmilk supply.
Oral restrictions aren't just important for breastfeeding babies, they are important for all children. This is because if the tongue is not sitting in the mouth properly, it will exert excessive pressure on the palate, leading to health issues, such as sleep apnea and need for orthodontic work. If it causes speech or dental hygeine issues, there will be stinky breath, tooth decay, social issues such as shyness and bullying. The consensus amongst leading experts dealing with oral restrictions is 'the sooner its treated if there is a functional impairment, the better the long term outcome'.
If you were to speak to anyone family affected by functional oral impairments, they will totally agree that early detection and treatment saves a lot of heartache and your hip pocket too.
So my golden advice is to find the right person to help you. I have met far to many people who time and time again have seen several people for assistance and not gotten anywhere. They are so emotionally traumatised and burned out - and from my end, it is really upsetting to see.
In the past 3 months, I have seen 8 mother baby pairs impacted by significant oral restrictions that had taken on average anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to be diagnosed. By getting the right help, most oral restrictions can be managed safely and effectively within a few days to a few weeks.
So please, don't make it hard on yourself, feel free to email me and ask for more info, I am more than happy to find someone that can help you if I can't.
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Kellie Eason RN, RM, IBCLC
Nurse, Midwife, IBCLC, Infant Feeding Therapist, Birth & Parenting Educator, Baby Sleep & Settling Consultant