SAN ANTONIO -

There are many reasons why a new mother might give up on breastfeeding her newborn, but with proper training and diagnosis, most problems including “tongue tie” can be corrected by a lactation consultant and other experts.

Tongue tie is the casual term for ankyloglossia, where the band of tissue called the frenum that connects the bottom of the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too tight, preventing the tongue from extending far enough to properly suck from the breast. 

Jeanette Watje discovered the problem about 11 days into her daughter Sophia’s life. An expert with nine child births to her credit, Watje says the problem was a surprise to her.

"She was fussy more at the breast.  And it hurt.. It hurt a lot," said the 42-year-old mom. But instead of giving up, this veteran mom who was determined to breast feed all of her children went to the dentist. That’s when she was told her daughter was a textbook example of “tongue tied.”

"We did the frenulectomy on the spot and I told her, 'That was the best $400 we ever spent,'" she laughed.   

Dr. Dana Hodge King has been performing the procedure for decades, and says it’s the best way to ward off later deformities of the mouth that can lead to other conditions such as sleep apnea. "All it takes is just touching it and then 'rip', it just rips on its own. It takes care of itself,” she explained.  Within seconds, a baby can be feeding easily and painlessly. 

"We need for them to develop the upper jaw.  It actually causes the transverse development of the upper jaw, which opens nasal airway, " said King.

Lactation consultant for Northeast Baptist Hospital Kay Banus says it’s a matter of training and education to head off problems later.  The key is early detection.  "If the feedings are extended, there's a little red flag. If he's not urinating or pooping enough, there's a red flag. If it's hurting, " Banus explained.

She says initially it’s good to take a wait-and-see approach, but the problem can be solved quite easily and that is a relief to the mother who can feel like a failure otherwise.

Overcoming oral challenges like this is the theme of this year’s 2014 San Antonio Breastfeeding Coalition Conference, which is being held Feb. 7-8 at the La Quinta Inn and Suites Conference Center on Horizon Hill Boulevard. 

For more information on the conference, visit www.sabctx.org.

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