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How to Tell If Your Baby’s Tongue Function is an Issue or Not!

I get this question a lot! I have mom’s come to me and they’re talking about how breastfeeding is such a struggle.  When I ask them if they have ever had their babies tongue function assessed they kind of look at me with big eyes like what. Sometimes they tell me that their midwife or doctor has looked in the baby’s mouth and said that there was no tongue tie.

Do Tongue-Tie Affect Tongue Functioning?

So, I wanted to talk a little bit more about why it is so important to assess your baby’s tongue function. 

It’s important to determine whether there is a tongue tie or not because that is one of the reasons why the tongue might not be functioning. 

Can Body Tightness Affect Tongue Function?

Some of the other reasons why the tongue might not be functioning optimally, or moving the way it should be moving, could be because of other body tightness going on.

The tongue is actually composed of eight muscles and those hook into or attached to a little bone in our neck called the hyoid bone. Those muscles are all also innervated by cranial nerves which come through the back of our neck or back of our head. 

So, if there is any body tightness, because of the way your baby was in the uterus or because of what happened during labor and delivery, can cause a lot of tightness in the neck area.  There can also be tightness in the front of the body which can pull everything down including the tongue.

What Are The Symptoms Of Tongue Dysfunction?

  • If your baby is falling asleep at the breast or the bottle.  If they’re just sucking for a minute or two and then they fall asleep, then that means that sucking is a lot of hard work for them and they are exhausted. It’s not efficient. 
  •  If they still have a white film on their tongue that is likely milk tongue even after feeding, that means that they’re not getting their tongue up to their palette to clear the milk away.
  • If you hear clicking, gulping, or coughing during a feed, then this is also a sign that your baby is not efficiently using their tongue to extract the milk and they are losing suction.

There are also some symptoms for mom to be on the lookout for:

  • If it is painful or difficult for your baby to latch or if you have delayed or low milk production that can be a signal.
  • Delayed or low milk production. Of course, if you had a C-section, your milk production is going to be a little bit more delayed than if you had a vaginal birth.  But it could also  be because your baby is not actually extracting the milk properly because of this poor tongue function.

The feedback to your body is that your baby doesn’t need that much milk. Your body responds by not making that much milk.  It can become this vicious cycle. 

So, what can you do at home to address these concerns?  There are definitely therapeutic exercises that you can do to get that tongue moving.  One of the things I really love are some of the teething toys that can be used for promoting good tongue function.

I highly recommend if you have any issues with breast feeding with bottle feeding, if your baby has reflux, to reach out and get an oral motor tongue function assessment.  Don’t settle for, “yeah, I see that baby’s tongue is sticking out totally fine, it’s not a big deal”. I want you to get somebody to look inside their mouth and feel inside their mouth with their fingers to get that tongue moving. You can do that yourself as well.  See if that tongue moves or is there something causing restriction. Is that tongue moving freely or is it tight? 

Getting an assessment done by a professional, who is trained in this, could make all the difference.  If you’d like to join other Mamas who are asking the same questions and get some helpful answers in a supportive community, you can join a group of other Mamas just like you in my free group Sleep Deprived Mama’s Holistic + Heart-Centered Support here and see how we are all navigating this together! 

I did a video about this topic, you can watch it here.  And grab my tongue-tie symptoms checklist to see whether your baby has some of the classic signs of a tongue-tie or tongue dysfunction.

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Kaili Ets

I help overwhelmed and exhausted moms create a clear action plan around their baby's sleep, developmental, reflux, and overall functioning so they can tune into and trust their mama instincts and feel like the confident super moms they are.

hi! I'm Kaili!

Lovingly known as the Holistic Baby Guru. I have a passion for normalizing and bringing clarity around baby sleep, development, reflux, and more. Wife and mom of two, I understands the importance of trusting your mama instincts. I am on a mission to help mamas tune into their intuition and feel like the confident super moms they are. I like to think of myself as an approachable authority on all things baby-related, as that I provides down-to-earth advice that makes everyone feel like they can do this parenting thing!

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