Baby having trouble breastfeeding? Might be tongue-tied

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — If your child or grandchild is having a hard time breastfeeding, it might be a good idea to look under her tongue.

The tongue is connected to the floor of the mouth by a band called the lingual frenulum, and sometimes it’s too short, too thick or connected in the wrong spot, according to Dr. Adva Buzi, pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

"We start to call a lingual frenulum problematic when it is limiting the tongue movement and therefore causing some kind of deficiency," she said. "That’s where the term 'tongue tie' comes in. It just basically means a lingual frenulum that’s limiting tongue movement."

She says having a tethered tongue can make it difficult for a baby to latch on during breastfeeding, and when it becomes a problem, the frenulum can be cut to improve movement. It doesn’t always require treatment though, Dr. Buzi  says the condition is found in around 10% of us and many never know.

The tongue tie can be diagnosed later in life too, and that causes different issues.

"When we eat, we use our tongue to clean our back molars after we’ve eaten. So, kids who have tongue tie may have some issues with that," she said. "Other issues interestingly, are just like the social stigma of not being able to stick out your tongue to do something like an ice cream or just really be able to stick out your tongue and not have it look different."