As a new parent, few things are as bewildering as a diagnosis of tongue tie in your infant. After all, there are many conflicting opinions among well-meaning healthcare professionals as to the nature, prognosis, and treatment of tongue-tied babies. Amidst such widespread misunderstanding of the problem, how can you be sure that you’re getting the best recommendations for the long-term health of your baby?
In my practice, I deal with this question all the time. Fortunately, it is very possible to build a clear understanding of infant tongue tie, and to make educated decisions on how best to treat it.
Before continuing, however, I must first address a common misunderstanding: surgery is not a silver bullet. A diagnosis of infant tongue or lip tie is a scary thing, causing many parents to scramble for the first, seemingly best available option in the hopes that all will quickly be resolved. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Parents need to understand all the associated risks and challenges that come with a tongue-tied baby. Towards that end, it is ideal to assemble a team of experts who will provide the guidance and work before and after a frenectomy needed to ensure the most optimal and beneficial outcome. “Quick-snip” babies who undergo surgery without this nuanced support often see less than desirable results, and often end up in a second surgery.
I have drawn on current research, continuing education from world-renowned experts and my professional clinical experience to create this seven-part series of educational blog posts. Here’s what you’ll learn:
Post 1 – How the modern birthing process sets babies up for challenges with feeding, especially tongue tied babies
The majority of births in the U.S. now take place in the hospital. While infant mortality rates have plummeted over the last century worldwide due to advances in modern medicine, there is evidence to suggest that interventionist methods of delivery provided in U.S. hospitals are having adverse effects on newborns. I will also touch on the fact that the U.S. maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the developed world, and describe what a more natural birth process is like.
I will also discuss how induced pregnancies and C-sections put excess strain on the baby’s connective tissues, while depriving them of the natural stimuli needed to fully “turn on” autonomic regulatory processes. I’ll also take a high-level look at how the culture surrounding pregnancy and birth has changed, as well as the role midwives, osteopaths, and chiropractors can play in facilitating a more natural delivery.
Posts 2 and 3 – The role of an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) before and after a frenectomy
Releasing a baby’s tongue tie usually involves a surgical procedure called a frenectomy. However, your pediatrician’s recommendations may not encompass much beyond the surgery itself.
In the 2nd and 3rd posts, my goal is to convey the immense value an IBCLC can offer before and after a frenectomy to maximize results and minimize pain and recovery time, as well as getting the most out of the procedure. This includes acclimating both child and parent to working within the mouth in preparation for surgery, providing aid in getting the infant to latch onto the breast with less pain, protecting the mother’s milk supply, meeting family’s breastfeeding goals, and assessing post-surgical progress.
Post 4 – Role of the bodyworker
Few hospital births feature an onsite Osteopath, but virtually every one of them could benefit (often enormously) from their expertise. Because of a process known as “armoring”, many babies are often delivered into the world with an excessive amount of tension in their connective tissues.
In the past, some of these tensions would naturally work themselves out via tummy sleep and babywearing. With modern practices, however, babies are so often saddled with strains, tensions and torsions which can create a host of issues and a cascade effect over time.
A skilled osteopath, a chiropractor (trained in craniosacral therapy and particularly in treating newborns), and even some physical therapists and occupational therapists can either guide parents on homework or directly administer the bodywork needed to relieve this tension, thereby strengthening and lengthening the muscles associated with breathing and breastfeeding. Bodywork also shores up deficiencies in natural stimuli normally rendered in natural births, fostering proper neurological integration.
Tongue-tied infants preparing for a frenectomy can further benefit from bodywork via myofunctional therapy rendered before and after the surgery. In this post, I’ll cover how bodyworkers help improve surgical success, restore functionality, and foster proper development of the face, jaw, and airway.
Post 5 – Role of the Functional Medicine Pediatrician
Sometimes, bodywork alone fails to fully alleviate the tension and tightness that prevents wound remodeling following a frenectomy. Such cases often point to systemic problems which give rise to inflammation. A Functional Medicine Pediatrician (or else a more integrative, holistic medical provider) can provide the diagnostic clarity needed to allow the frenum to heal fully, with good range of motion and healthy collagen.
Through the use of developmental panels (carried out through a simple cheek swab), Functional Medicine Pediatricians can monitor for genetic issues ranging from MTFHR and other forms of impaired methylation, impaired autophagy (essentially your body’s ability to remove body toxins at the cellular and macro levels), and even vaccine sensitivity. These issues pose considerable developmental challenges to anyone, but especially to tongue-tied infants.
In any case, the ultimate goal of this consultation is to pinpoint the underlying causes of contraction and tight healing around the frenum after surgery, tamp down on inflammation, and finally support your baby in getting the nutrients and methylated vitamins they need. Functional Medicine Pediatricians can also identify any food allergies caused by the mother’s diet via her milk, as well as provide guidance on the safest vaccination schedule for babies facing specific challenges or sensitivities.
Post 6 – Tummy Time, container babies, and the Back to Sleep initiative
In 1994, the Back to Sleep initiative set forth a series of now-widely adopted recommendations in an effort to combat the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While largely successful in this respect, placing an infant solely on their back to sleep has since proven detrimental to their neurological integration, neuromuscular development, and overall l musculoskeletal system.
To compensate, another practice has arisen, known as Tummy Time. What used to be normal occurrence for babies around the clock is now concentrated in their waking hours, and in this post we’ll delve further into the implications of this new interventionist paradigm. I’ll also cover the “container baby” phenomenon, which presents a related set of risks.