Tongue-tie, Lip-Tie, Cheek-Ties: What’s a Tie?
Let’s dive into definitions. A “tie” is a functional restriction of motion due to tethered frenulum. A frenula (plural: frenulum) is a strand of connective tissue that anchors a semi-mobile body part (ie. the tongue), to a fixed body part (ie. the floor of the mouth). Ankyloglossia [ang″kĭ-lo-glos´e-ah], more commonly known as a tongue-tie, is an anomaly in which mobility and function of the tongue is restricted by a short or thick lingual frenulum. Lingual frenulum is a membrane connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Buccal frenulum connect the cheek to the gums, and a labial frenula is the soft tissue connecting the lip to the gums. Cheek-ties and lip-ties are similar in that the frenulum are thick or short and tethered to the gums tightly, restricting the proper function of the cheeks and lips. Tongue-tie, lip-ties, and cheek-ties are medically referred to as Tethered Oral Tissues (TOTS).
Signs of a Tongue Tie
It’s common for ties to negatively impact breastfeeding, bottle feeding, GI function, growth and development of the airway, and the structure and shape of the mouth, face and head. Many babies with TOTS experience difficulty with breastfeeding such as staying on breast, leaking milk from sides of mouth, coughing or gagging, lip blisters, gas pain (from swallowing too much air), noisy breathing/snoring, a shallow or soft latch, or slow weight gain. Other common signs are colic and reflux. When your baby cries, you may notice that your baby’s tongue doesn’t elevate or you may notice that at rest the tongue doesn’t touch the roof of their mouths as it should, or that they breathe from their mouth instead of their nose.
Parents may experience pain and unusual discomfort from flattened or damaged nipples, engorgement, and mastitis. Feedings may be long or the breast not fully drained. At about 6 -8 weeks, you may notice a drop in milk production as the signals to increase supply switch from receiving cues from post-delivery hormones instead to a supply and demand where the breast produces in response to how much is extracted. Baby may be frustrated and fussy at the breast, or tiring quickly when feeding, or hungry soon after the last session. Sound familiar? Take a deep breath, I am here to help!
How can Craniosacral Therapy help tongue ties?
CST cannot make a tie disappear. What CST can do is help your baby (or you) feel better in their body; Less tense and more calm. CST is a whole-body approach that uses a gentle touch to release restrictions and address bodywide compensatory tension patterns. It is quite common to find other restrictions and related asymmetry in a body challenged by TOTS, most commonly in the skull, neck, abdomen, pelvis or feet.
During our session, I use CST bodywide to find and unwind abnormal strain in the muscles and connective tissues that limit function, easing tension patterns that prevent the muscles and structures of the face and mouth from functioning effectively and efficiently. CST also helps boost the functions of our body’s most basic systems, all which relate to the tongue: eating, digestion, sleep, sensory, and neuromotor.
Typically, the earlier craniosacral therapy is introduced the more rapid the outcomes. Some improvements parents notice in their child after a CST session: less stress, increased tongue and jaw mobility, improved latch, the head or neck move more freely, improved digestion, reduction of reflux or colic symptoms, or more ease when breastfeeding, eating, sleeping, passing gas, or pooping.
I love supporting babies with tongue ties!
Parents bring their children in for craniosacral therapy (CST) sessions for a wide-variety of issues, and tethered oral tissues, like a tongue-tie, are a very common reason. When I first started working with babies it came up so frequently I became a bit obsessed with the tongue: its anatomy, function, dynamics, and its crucial role in eating and breathing. I’ve taken the Breathe Baby Course at the Breathe Institute, and advanced CST workshops specifically about tongue-tie (medically referred to as ankyloglossia) in infants and children, teens and adults. I’ve always been a breastmilk enthusiast and my fascination with the tongue led me to pursue a certification as a breastfeeding specialist. The tongue! A mighty muscle that not only plays a role in breathing and eating, but has an influence on the entire body. If there is a restriction in the tongue, it is very likely causing tension elsewhere in the body. I am looking forward to supporting you on this journey. You can set up an appointment with me by clicking on this link.
Article by Cori Escalante: Craniosacral therapist & certified breastfeeding specialist