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Your baby experiencing gas, colic, clicking while feeding, poor weight gain, fussiness, trouble staying on the breast or generalized pain for mom-may all be signs that point to tongue-tie, or at the very least a suck swallow breathe issue in the feeding process.

The term “tongue-tie”, also known as ankyloglossia, is when the frenulum (the small piece of tissue under the tongue) is tight, short or thick, restricting the tongue movements. In breastfeeding the tongue needs to both lift and extend, bringing the milk to the back of the throat. The tongue needs to stick out far enough and the mouth needs to open wide enough to create a seal around the areola. The lift of the tongue is the up and down, wave-like movement which creates a vacuum inside the back of the mouth that draws out the milk. If either of those movements aren’t happening the way they are supposed to, it is difficult for the baby to drain the milk from mom’s breast and can lead to low weight gain, painful nursing and overall fussiness for the baby due to the latch letting go and causing gas pains.

Some signs of a tongue-tie:

  • Breast feeding issues
  • Poor coordination in suck swallow breathe
  • Poor milk transfer
  • Continuous feeding cycle
  • Frustration at the breast or withdrawal
  • Nipple damage/bruising
  • Possible poor weight gain
  • Bloating, gas, reflux
  • Poor airway protection
  • A curved “C” looking arched body when the baby is laying down

Your baby’s tongue is just the START of the problem as it serves the purpose of establishing one’s midline. Some babies may already have some midline tension from how they were laying in utero from birth. Then you consider tension in the midline from a tight tongue and neck, there can be a layered effect of what is going on in that little infant. Tongue-tie babies can also be missing out on a key part of breastfeeding-the relaxation that is triggered when their tongue touches their hard palate. Nerves in the palate trigger a calming response (amongst other things), part of why you see baby’s experience the “milk drunk” post feed response.

CranioSacral for Tongue tied

So while clipping the frenulum allows the tongue to move more freely, it doesn’t address the big layered picture of what else may be going on. CranioSacral Therapy can help these underlying restrictions in the body that is keeping your baby from getting better and more efficient at eating, even after a clip or a laser has been done.

Torticollis, a consistent head tilt that can lead to a flat spot on the baby’s developing skull-is also common in tongue-tie babies but can also be the cause of similar symptoms in a baby’s feeding pattern. You can also have torticollis and no tongue tie, so deciphering these symptoms can be a frustrating thing as a parent. Not every mom and baby will experience all of these symptoms and not all these symptoms necessarily mean you have a tongue-tie. If it is an actual tie it will not get better on its own and should seek out a trained professional who can diagnose a tongue tie.

CranioSacral therapy, or CST, is a light touch therapy that helps release restrictions in the skull, neck, spine & pelvis to improve the functions of the central nervous system. CST is very relaxing for babies, and many babies “bliss out”, especially after their first couple of treatments with the therapist. Sometimes the baby will lie on the table, but I will often hold the baby or work on the baby while the parent holds or nurses them.

I usually like to start at the feet and work up, as to have the baby get used to my touch and release any restrictions elsewhere in the body before diving right into the mouth and having the baby experience another treatment where they are poked and prodded. Many parents are pleasantly surprised at how relaxed their baby can be after/during a session, especially weeks later after a few sessions, parents can really see the change. Older children may take more convincing than babies, but they still have a similar response, just in smaller, quicker increments. We want to make slow sustainable releases for the baby in order to make sure the change stays and the tissue doesn’t rebound. The gentle technique used allows the tissue to melt and release in a fuller way. I want the parent and the baby to be comfortable, relaxed and happy during their session.

Many parents state these positive results after a CST session:

  • Baby and parents more relaxed/less tension
  • Baby enjoys car seat drives much more
  • Baby can stay latched on the breast much longer
  • More effective nursing/more comfortable latch for mom
  • Grunting and snorting less
  • Better/ longer sleep increments
  • Happier disposition in baby
  • Effective weight gain

Sessions last around a half-hour and most babies need 2-8 sessions to resolve issues, based on how severe the tongue tie is and what other factors are going with their issues.

More than anything, if your baby does have a tongue tie, the best approach is a team approach—working with SLPs, lactation consultants, dentists, ENTs & chiropractors to assure that all parts of your baby’s issue are addressed, and they can go on with normal development in all areas.

More than anything, CST can’t hurt your baby and a lot of time is a non-invasive way to help your baby be welcomed into the world in a loving, gentle manner.

It IS possible to reach breastfeeding goals, but more importantly everyone deserves a team that will help them find the solution that is best for each baby.

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