Welcome to the first instalment of ‘Tongue Tied on Tuesday’. In this series I will be doing some fact-checking about some of the different claims that are made about Tongue Tie. I’m going to try and keep it as simple as I can, without entering in to all of the (often heated) debate that goes along with this topic. My goal is to empower parents with truthful information so that you can make educated and informed decisions about your child.
Before we dive in, let’s talk about what Tongue Tie actually is.
There isn’t actually one set definition of Tongue Tie (TT), medically known as Ankyloglossia. It’s generally agreed that a TT exists when the little piece of connective tissue under the tongue (called the lingual frenulum) is restricting the movement of the tongue in such a way that it can’t fully move and can’t perform properly (so it’s function is affected, as well as it’s movement).1 There are different ways of categorising TT, but again, the definitions vary (For example, do you assess it just on how bad it looks? Do you assess it based on how much it’s affecting the baby? Do you assess it based on both appearance and functional impact? Etc)
So already, the waters have been muddied and you can see that from the outset, talking about TT is controversial. Even just the way people define it and diagnose it differs from place to place, and even from one healthcare profession to the next.
How common is TT? This is also a tricky one, because without a set definition, the numbers can vary. But the general consensus has been that the incidence is about 5% - 10%. So anywhere between 1 in 20 to 1 in 10 babies are born with a TT.2
Now it gets trickier again – the diagnosis of TT, and the surgical correction of it, has been on the rise in the last few years. In NSW between 2011 to 2015 the number of babies and children undergoing surgical correction for TT tripled.3 Why? Some would argue that TT is being over-diagnosed these days, and others would argue that TT was under-diagnosed before now.
And the conversation about TT has changed dramatically too. It was never really something that was talked about, outside of your visit to the Paediatrician with your newborn, or your checkup with the Midwife. Now, there are multiple Facebook groups, parent forums, online videos, Twitter accounts and more, dedicated to the discussion of TT. It feels like it’s everywhere. And like with any sudden boom in popularity about something health-related, there are LOTS of people & professions jumping on the bandwagon with fearless abandon, making wild claims about what this tiny piece of connective tissue will do to your child’s development. Unfortunately, there are also lots of people out there making money off parent’s fears and anxieties; that if they don’t get that TT treated that their child is doomed (and that they are a terrible parent).
So that’s why I want to do some fact-checking. As parents in a modern social-media-heavy world, we are guilt tripped about ENOUGH as it is. So let’s reclaim being strong parents and protecting our kids from all the rubbish that gets said on social media and online (and hopefully avoid unnecessary surgery/treatments in the meantime too).
So stay tuned for the next episode of ‘Tongue Tied on Tuesday’ where I will fact-check about whether TT can cause problems with tummy time.
Please comment below on any TT questions you’d like me to fact check for you!
Wattis, L., Kam, R., & Douglas, P. (2017). Three experienced lactation consultants reflect upon the oral tie phenomenon. Breastfeeding Review, 25(1)
O’Shea, J., Foster, J., O/Donnell, C., Breathnach, D., Jacobs, S., Todd, D., & Davis, P. (2017). Frenotomy for tongue-tie in newborn infants. Cochrane Database System Review, 11(3)
Hansen, J. (2016). Doctors warning parents to stop new fad of operating on their baby’s tongues, The Daily Telegraph, March 26