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When Tongue-ties Cause Feeding Difficulties

When Tongue-ties Cause Feeding Difficulties

When both my babies caused me pain with latching and had issues with excessive weight loss as newborns, I knew something was wrong. But what? It wasn’t until a knowledgeable lactation consultant suggested that they had posterior tongue-ties that I had a reason for their poor feeding. In residency, I had been taught only about the obvious tongue-ties that were directly visible when babies opened their mouths. Posterior tongue-tie was a completely new concept to me.

Posterior tongue-ties are only visible upon specific examination maneuvers, thus are more subtle to detect than classic, or anterior, tongue-ties. One must lift the tongue where its base meets the floor of the mouth, then look and feel for tension of the frenulum, which is the soft tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Without doing so, posterior tongue-ties are easy to miss.

A tight frenulum, whether it extends to the tip of the tongue (anterior) or attaches further back (posterior), can wreak havoc on a baby’s ability to maintain a good seal and suction on the breast or bottle. When the tongue is tightly attached to the floor of the mouth, it cannot sufficiently lift to form a proper seal within the mouth while sucking. Subsequently, without a proper seal, suction strength is compromised.

Without a proper seal, babies also end up swallowing extra air. This loss of seal can be heard as “clicking” while sucking. The swallowed air can lead to excessive gas, fussiness, and even reflux in many cases. Many tongue-tied babies also experience sleep issues related to the discomfort of excess gas and reflux.

Once I read more about tongue-ties and how they present challenges with feeding and related issues, I decided to learn how to correct them. I attended as many conferences, workshops, and webinars as I could find. When Dr. Ghaheri, renowned tongue-tie expert, invited me to his clinic to observe his work, I jumped at the chance. Eventually, I was able to apply this extensive knowledge to my clinical work.

Helping parents and babies overcome the various challenges related to tongue-tie has been some of my most rewarding work to date. It is so gratifying to hear parents’ relief when their babies feed better. Moms tell me their babies latch with better suction and less pain, or are able to feed with more stamina and not fall asleep from sucking fatigue. Babies can feed more efficiently from the bottle with less air swallowing and gassiness. Anecdotally, parents tell me their babies feel better and sleep better. It’s almost unbelievable how so many functional issues can extend from a tiny piece of tissue under the tongue.

If you’re experiencing feeding issues in your baby related to tongue-tie, or suspect your baby may have a tongue-tie, contact Blossom today for a consultation.


Dr. Chan is a pediatrician in Houston, TX. She provides in-depth pediatric care, in-home postpartum and newborn care, extensive lactation support, and expert tongue-tie treatment.

* Any information contained in this blog post is for educational and informative purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Individual results and experiences may vary; no guarantee of specific clinical outcomes is implied by any statements made on this blog.

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