You’re holding your little bundle of joy and you’re so excited to bond with them. But, as you begin breastfeeding, your baby isn’t latching properly. Or maybe is hungry a lot more often than expected.
*Cue frustration, worry, and that mother’s intuition that deep down you know something is up.
Just know - you are not alone!
There are many different reasons for difficulty with feeding. One reason may be tethered oral tissues (TOTs). The most well-known TOT is a tongue tie (lingual tie). But it’s also possible for your child to have a buccal (cheek) or labial (lip) tie. Now the presence of a piece of tissue, otherwise known as a frenulum, does not automatically mean that your child has a “tie” that affects the function of your body in some way. We have to look and see if your child’s tie impacts their feeding (breast or bottle), chewing/swallowing, breathing, sleeping, speech, or even body movements or posture.
Now, like most people, you’re probably Googling a course of action. And “AHHH!” there is so much conflicting information out there! Now what?
Seek out a professional who will appropriately assess your child’s oral function before immediately recommending surgery. Here are some professionals or types of therapy may need to search for:
So, what is an oral functional evaluation?
The purpose of an oral functional evaluation is to look at the structure and the function of the oral cavity as it relates to the stages of feeding and speech. We need to first see if your child’s oral cavity is working for them and if not, what exactly is going wrong. While there isn’t yet one standardized protocol for an oral functional evaluation, a professional is looking for a few things that are related to pre-feeding and feeding skills, like…
And why does your child need one?
After an oral functional evaluation, you and the specialist can work together to create goals to help you an
d your child. This may mean implementing strategies or writing goals to support body tension and posture, speech, or progression of feeding.
If you’re thinking about a frenectomy (tie removal/release), it’s crucial you get an oral functional evaluation first. A TOTs release should be due to functional impact! It is also likely that you will still need to see a specialist following a frenectomy to support your child’s oral function – it won’t magically fix itself.
what to look for?
There are several symptoms that may indicate that your child has TOTs. These don’t necessarily mean that they do and these don’t necessarily mean you need to look into a release. But if you are seeing some of these symptoms at home, you want to seek out a professional.
Don’t forget- everyone’s experience is different – what your child needs (including their TOTs) may be very different from the next. To find a provider near you, check out the International Consortium of Tongue-Tie Professionals (ICAP).