When fashion designer and reality star Whitney Port was having trouble breastfeeding her son, Sunny, she turned to her pediatrician. What she discovered was that Sunny had a common condition known as "tongue-tie" in which the tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth by shorter-than-usual tissue. Dealing with Sunny's tongue ultimately didn't solve his feeding problems, and a doctor tells us it's not uncommon for the affliction to be responsible for preventing babies from latching and nursing effectively.
"About one in 10 to 15 kids, more boys than girls, have tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia," Hansa Bhargava, MD, a pediatrician and WebMD's senior medical director, told POPSUGAR. "Children who have tongue-tie may have trouble breastfeeding and, as they get older, speaking, eating, and sticking out their tongue. The condition is a birth defect and we are not sure exactly why it happens."
So how could it affect your baby's ability to nurse? Basically, your little one's tongue won't be able to wrap the nipple correctly, not only creating friction and possibly leading to pain and even infection for mamas, but potentially leading to cluster feeding and loss of weight. Some common symptoms to watch out for, according to the UK's National Health System (NHS), include feeding for a long time, stopping, then wanting to feed again, and making a clicking sound during nursing. "If you think your baby is having trouble with latching or sucking, talk to your doctor to rule out tongue-tie as a cause," Bhargava suggests.
Mild cases of tongue-tie that don't interfere with the baby's feeding or talking might not need to be fixed. "But if it's creating issues and your child has difficulty moving his tongue, we may recommend surgery," said Bhargava. "It's a pretty simple procedure that usually means cutting the tissue to free the tongue." The NHS adds that there are "very few nerve endings in the area around the floor of the mouth," so babies tend to sleep through the process (due to anesthesia) or cry for just a few seconds.