Tongue Ties and Breastfeeding


Many families seek out the help of a lactation professional like me because they are struggling with breastfeeding. As a certified lactation counselor, one issue that I see frequently affecting breastfeeding is tongue ties.

I’ve sent dozens of families for assessment and evaluation of suspected tethered oral tissue (TOTs.) Only a handful of times has my suspicion been wrong. (I’m not saying this to brag- I’m not magic! I’m saying this because it is SO COMMON.)

TOTs is also referred to as “tongue-tie” or “lip-tie” and, more rarely, “cheek ties.” For many mother-baby partnerships, these common variations in oral structure can wreak havoc on feeding. This can result in sore, cracked and even bleeding nipples. It also causes painful feeding, low milk supply, extra fussy babies, digestion issues, reflux, poor infant weight gain and more.

This is not a fad. It’s not new. Tongue ties do often (and severely) impact both mother’s ability to produce breast milk and baby’s ability to digest it and gain weight properly.

Side note: without optimal function of the infant feeding system, ALL feeding can be impacted. That means bottle feeding, too.

More than 80% of new mothers want to breastfeed and initiate breastfeeding in the United States. Yet those numbers drastically decrease within the first weeks of life, leaving women to feel they have failed. After all, at the most basic level, our jobs as parents are to make sure our children are fed, right? Women who experience breastfeeding struggles often also experience perinatal mood disorders, like postpartum depression or anxiety.

“…postpartum depression may reduce rates of breastfeeding, not engaging in breastfeeding may increase the risk of postpartum depression.”

If you stopped breastfeeding because it was never a pain-free act, you didn’t fail.

The health system failed. It fails parents and babies with TOTs all the time by insisting it’s not a big deal, or doesn’t need skilled lactation support, doesn’t require an intervention, or isn’t a real thing.

Tampa Bay is home to a wonderfully supportive community for managing TOTs, correcting it when needed, and helping parents work to meet their breastfeeding goals. If breastfeeding is painful, it should not be. If your breastfed baby isn’t gaining properly, please also seek out a professional lactation specialist who will work in concert with your baby’s pediatrician. 

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading