On a sunny morning in May, Emily and her husband took their 3-month-old daughter, Olivia, to the pediatrician’s office for a consultation. Emily, a first-time mother, had become increasingly concerned with her daughter’s inability to breastfeed properly and had noticed the baby becoming agitated and crying after feeding attempts.
After a brief examination, the pediatrician recommended Olivia to an ENT specialist since she was suspected of having a tongue-tie. The specialist confirmed the diagnosis and suggested a frenectomy, a minor surgical procedure where a laser is used to clip the tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, to mitigate the issue. However, the thought of surgery being done on her baby was nerve-wracking for Emily, and she wanted to know more about what to expect post-surgery.
Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, occurs when the tissue connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too tight, restricting the tongue’s movement. This can cause difficulties with breastfeeding, speech, and oral hygiene. While tongue-tie is not typically life-threatening, it can be stressful for parents and cause discomfort for babies.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery, approximately 10% of infants will be born with a tongue-tie, and among breastfeeding infants, it can range from 4% to 10%. For these infants, tongue-tie can lead to a less efficient sucking pattern, reducing their milk intake, and may contribute to maternal nipple pain and damage.
After the surgery, most babies will be fussy and experience discomfort for a couple of days. It is essential to follow the surgeon’s post-operative care instructions carefully, which typically involve keeping the mouth clean and giving pain medication as directed. However, despite the pain, it is critical to try to continue breastfeeding or feeding via a bottle.
Parents should also try techniques for calming and soothing their baby, as surgery can cause stress and anxiety. Providing calming music, rocking, swaying, and cuddling can help create a peaceful environment for the baby to sleep and heal. Also, using a pacifier can be an effective way to soothe the baby during recovery.
According to Dr. Dana Chidekel, a licensed clinical psychologist and the author of “The Right Parenting: It’s Not What We Say, It’s What We Do,” parents should keep in mind that their actions can affect their baby’s mood. “When parents are relaxed, babies feel relaxed too. If you are soothing and positive, your baby can feel reassured and secure,” she says.
It is essential to monitor the baby for any signs of complications, such as fever, excessive bleeding, swelling, or signs of infection, and consult with the pediatrician or ENT surgeon if any issues arise.
In conclusion, tongue-tie surgery is a minor yet necessary procedure to improve a baby’s overall oral health and tongue mobility. However, it can cause discomfort and stress to both parents and babies. It is critical for parents to provide a calm and soothing environment and closely follow the surgeon’s post-operative instructions to ensure a smooth recovery.
Moving forward, it is essential to encourage breastfeeding education and awareness, as catching tongue-ties early can prevent more complicated issues from arising. Additionally, understanding the importance of proper oral hygiene and speech therapy can help early diagnosis and minimize the potential negative effects associated with tongue-tie.