Congratulations on the arrival of your little one! This time is both exciting and joyful as well as exhausting and, well, testing at times. Hang in there, you’ve got this! Or maybe not yet? In either case, if you are reading this because you are struggling… please take a moment to give yourself some credit. Really! Parenting is the most complex job you will ever have and it will get easier.
We as new parents take it for granted that newborns have few activities – eating, sleeping, eliminating and, from time-to-time, giving us just a glance of the cuteness to come. How hard should this be? As natural and routine as eating should be, for some it isn’t easy. And no matter how much you’ve learned in your life and no matter how many degrees you’ve earned, chances are that no one has prepared you for the difficulties and stress that oral dysfunction creates.
Today, more attention is being paid to the issue called tongue-tie (and we’ll also include lip-tie and buccal-tie here). But first, what is tongue-tie exactly? Tongue-tie (called ankyloglossia) is a congenital condition which we see as an abnormally short or thickened cord of tissue under the tongue which restricts mobility of the tongue. Tongue-tie can create a spectrum of issues including problems with swallowing, speaking, orthodontics, and even psychological stress. Regarding the latter, chiropractors are interested not only in the structural problems but also the neurophysiological ones including sympathetic stress and possible impacts upon bonding and neurological development.
“But wait, if I have my baby’s tongue tie revised, won’t this take care of the problem?” Yes…and no.
Yes, the revision will free up the tongue to allow for better movement during feeding, but this does not mean that it will “know” what to do nor that it will be immediately able to do so. But hang in there. Remember that up until the time of the revision, your baby has done everything he or she can do to functionally compensate and to be able to survive (picture doing a 1000 push-ups every day with your face).
This means that an entire muscular system has shifted to accommodate and has worked very hard at it (which can be exhausting, by the way). So the the muscles which are actually designed to work in the most efficient way have little opportunity to exercise their function.
Next on the agenda is rehabilitation. Some massage exercises are recommended to make sure the site does not grow back. Suck therapy is also recommended to strengthen and retrain the newly released tongue muscle.
Incorporate into your child’s care plan a chiropractor who is a specialist in pediatrics (called a Diplomate) who has had continued education in managing the neurological, structural and soft tissue sequelae which accompanies a tongue-tie. There are also myofascial therapists and osteopaths who practice craniosacral therapy and myotherapies to assist your child before and after the surgical revision of a tongue tie.
Your chiropractor will want to see you back about a week after the revision. The reason to wait for a week is to allow for healing of the tissue. Then, the focus will be on spinal alignment, muscular balance along the spine, face and jaw as well as the relief of tension along the meninges of the spinal cord. This is when it gets exciting! When the neurological irritation of the overly-hard-working infant who was just trying survive is relieved, we begin to see global changes including:
- the ability to rest
- lessening of spitting up
- less gassiness
- less fussiness
- better sleep (thank God)
- lasting pleasure and comfort in nursing (or bottle feeding)
A little gift of hope. A sign you can look for to know that your baby is starting to win in this battle is to watch the hands unfold. Babies who have neurological interference due to fascia and meningeal restriction (from the tie and its soft tissue sequelae) will often close their fists tightly and wrap their thumbs around the front of the fingers. This finding has been discussed and explored for decades by practitioners such as Dr. Carol Philips, Dr. Sharon Vallone and others who have dedicated their lives to this work. When you start to see that sweet little hand soften and open, know that you are seeing progress. Remember, every baby is different. Some heal and regain function quickly. Others take more time and need more support. So hang in there.
If you would like to get more information on how to choose the chiropractor for your family’s needs, what to expect during your visits, typical treatment plans and what you can do at home to support the care you receive in the office. Please visit:
Dr. Erica Statman, D.C., D.I.C.C.P
10807 Main Street, Suite 800, Fairfax, VA 22030