A tongue tie can be miserable for both Mums and Babies. For Babies, everything is about sucking and feeding and anything that gets in the way of a successful feed is frustrating. For Mums, getting a proper, deep latch is key to maximising the bonding experience and if not, the pain may be torture!
The buzz on the street is that folic acid supplementation is causing an increase in “tongue tie” in our babies. Unfortunately, at the moment, this stance remains anecdotal, reported via an increase in the diagnosis of tongue tie and by the medical professionals on the ground. My search for the evidence basis in the science behind this claim (so I can make sure I’m giving you the BEST information available) has unearthed nothing solid. Google has lead me to a plethora of websites quoting that 20-40% of the population have a mutation in the MTHFR gene that stops us from breaking down synthetic folic acid properly and assert that this is why our tongue tie rates are increasing. This has been the subject of international debate since 2012 and is all very controversial.
Irrespective of WHY tongue tie seems to be on the increase, be it an increase in awareness and diagnosis, or an increase in the actual prevalence of tongue tie, we are faced with HOW to treat it. It is an emotionally charged problem. Parents are sleep deprived by babies that cannot breast feed properly and babies are hungry and demanding. It is easy to go straight for a tongue tie cut, however, it is very important to seek the best solution for each individual case. I have recently found a Facebook page (New Zealand Tongue Tie Discussion) that provides access to a variety of different healthcare professionals that can help. It is important to get different perspectives from the different health care consultants that treat tongue tie; lactation consultants, midwives, doctors, osteopaths and dentists before making the decision to surgically treat. Some types of tongue tie can obviously be helped by cutting, others are not so “cut and dry”!
From an osteopathic perspective we are looking for the best fit between the mothers breast and the babies oral cavity, or mouth. We look at, amongst other things; jaw positioning, tension of the tempero-mandibular joint, tension in the neck and tongue, shape of the babies palate, mothers ribcage shape and therefore her ability to hold the baby in an optimum position, the nerves of digestion, relationship to other cranial bones and the type of tongue tie.
Often, with a posterior tongue tie, just cutting the tie does not solve the problem and in fact it can sometimes make breast feeding more painful and difficult. Finding the right solution for each baby as soon as possible is the most important thing. It can reduce ongoing problems and ensure babies get the nutrition they need to develop and grow. As such, it is of the utmost importance to seek advice about different perspectives of treatment from different healthcare professionals before “cutting the tie” as soon as possible. Please reach out if breastfeeding is painful or hard at any time – not just in the first couple of days after birth!
Jeannie Baskeyfield, Osteopathic Natural Health.