Geraldine Miskin is a former Maternity Nurse with 10 years' experience working with families and newborns. She has completed the Australiasian Lactation Course as well as several breastfeeding and lactation courses in the UK. She currently runs a private practice in London offering home consultations for all baby related problems as well as breastfeeding and baby care lessons. Her philosophy is to promote and encourage breastfeeding and to support ALL parents regardless of their infant feeding choice.
As the baby needs to milk the breast with his tongue, it is important that he is able to stick his tongue out over the gum and bottom lip. A tongue tie is when the little membrane under the tongue is short and pins the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. It is very common, and often we find that either mom or dad will have or would have had one too. Failure to protrude the tongue over the bottom gum and lip will result in sore and painful nipples and the baby being unable to strip the breast properly and take a good feed. There are varying degrees of tongue tie, and not all tongue ties create problems for the breastfeeding dyad.
In order for the baby the take enough breast tissue into his mouth, his tongue needs to be out of the way. The only place for his tongue to go is out, over his bottom lip. To do this, his lip needs to be curled down, allowing his tongue to lie over the bottom gum and lip. Unlike drinking from a bottle, the breastfeeding baby uses his tongue to milk the breast with a wave like motion. When the baby has enough breast tissue in his mouth, the nipple is in the comfort zone right at the back of his mouth, and so nipples remain perfectly intact.
Your breasts will never be truly empty as they are continuously producing milk. When a baby first goes to the breast, it will do a sequence of short little sucks. These are different to the nutritive sucks and swallows the baby does when it has a let-down. Let-downs come in waves, so the baby will do little sucks to stimulate a let-down, and then remove the milk that is present. The baby will then work for another let-down, and remove the milk as before, and so on. We know that the baby is coming to the end of its feed when the baby has to work harder for a let-down, lots of little sucks for a longer period, and the let-downs are occurring less frequently.