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Why Won't My Baby Breastfeed?

There are many reasons, known and unknown, why babies resist breastfeeding. In many cases, it’s impossible to know what factor or combination of factors adds up to inefficient feeding. A lactation consultant can be a great resource for breastfeeding problems.  

Often, the problem is short-lived: As instinct and learning kick in, your child overcomes earlier difficulties. Sometimes, though, problems persist, causing distress for both child and mother. 

In some cases, it comes down to a small piece of tissue under the tongue, called the frenulum, that connects to the floor of the mouth. This connection limits the forward and upward movement of your baby’s tongue, making it more difficult to latch onto the nipple for breastfeeding. 

Without adequate latching, your child may not receive enough milk, and your nipples can become irritated, cracked, and dry. 

Pediatric ear, nose, and throat care may be part of the solution if your child is one of the 6-13% of children born with restrictive frenulums, a condition called ankyloglossia, known commonly as tongue-tie. A quick visit to Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates can take care of tongue-tie so that both you and your baby can relax.  

The role of the frenulum

The frenulum supports tongue movement by restricting extremes of motion, primarily in forward and side-to-side directions. When a baby has ankyloglossia, the frenulum may be overly restrictive, such as too short or attached too closely to the tip of the tongue. 

It’s not always obvious that the frenulum is a problem, and many children with ankyloglossia have no trouble breastfeeding. Only a small portion of tongue-tied babies require treatment to free up the tongue enough for efficient feeding. 

How to recognize your baby may be tongue-tied

If your baby isn’t feeding well on the breast, two observations could suggest tongue-tie. 

The first is that the feeding process will be uncomfortable for you, perhaps even painful, since even if your baby latches, the tongue may not be free enough to perform its role as it should. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for both child and mother. 

Watch your baby during crying spells. When they’re crying, the natural position for the tongue is to touch the roof of their mouth, so if you can easily see the tip of their tongue, a short or tight frenulum could be the reason. 

Combine that with uncomfortable or painful feedings, ask your primary doctor or lactation consultant if  it’s time to see a doctor at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates to confirm the diagnosis. 

Treating ankyloglossia

Sometimes, tongue-tie resolves itself, loosening enough that earlier feeding problems resolve. Your doctor may suggest adopting a wait-and-see posture, or they may recommend a frenotomy. 

While the idea of a surgical procedure may be shocking, rest assured that frenotomy is perhaps as simple as surgery gets. 

The frenulum has little nerve or blood vessel tissue within it, so your child feels very little during the procedure, and no more than a few drops of blood usually appear. Your baby can breastfeed immediately, and you should also feel the difference in their latching and suckling efficiency. 

Your baby’s feeding is crucial to their health, so when you suspect tongue-tie, contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates at the most convenient of their offices.  Book your appointment today.  

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