When 5-day-old Benjamin O'Connor, of Florence, Massachusetts, couldn't get the hang of breastfeeding, a lactation consultant discovered he had ankyloglossia -- more commonly known as a tongue-tie. The strand of tissue connecting the underside of his tongue to the floor of his mouth (the lingual frenulum) was short and taut, so it restricted the movement of his tongue. Benjamin ended up having a five-minute office procedure called a frenulectomy, in which an ear, nose, and throat doctor cut the connecting strand of tissue. The baby healed quickly and soon became a nursing champ.
"This is a fairly under-recognized condition," says Kristina Rosbe, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. For some babies, it poses no problems. But if a baby's tongue doesn't extend beyond the lower lip, he may have trouble latching on to the breast. Some infants with a tongue-tie have no trouble breastfeeding, but they develop speech issues when they're around 18 months. These children have difficulty articulating sounds such as d, l, n, r, s, sh, t, th, and z because of their tightly tethered tongue. They often need another procedure called a frenuloplasty, which usually takes place in the hospital and requires general anesthesia and stitches.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of Parents magazine.
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