How Can I Support a Client's Baby with Tongue-tie and Reflux?

Reflux, tongue-tie and children


If you work with babies and their parents - this blog is a must-read for you.

First things first.

Reflux is NOT a disease.

Infant reflux is a SYMPTOM. Always.

Here is my take on reflux, tongue-tie, and what I believe to be an ongoing injustice to children.

Because it is a symptom, it has a cause. Figure out the cause and resolve the reflux. It is as simple as that.

Except, it is not just that simple.


Is reflux caused by a weak sphincter muscle?

The world believes that the cause of reflux in babies is a weak sphincter muscle, allowing stomach acid to regurgitate easily. 

That is not true. 

Every baby has a weak sphincter muscle. This is a normal part of digestive development. And every baby regurgitates.

Babies with reflux all have another cause, something else that is forcing the stomach acid out of the stomach into the food pipe much later than just a few minutes after a feed and causing ongoing and severe discomfort and pain.


There are 3 Causes of Reflux:

  1. Aerophagia (swallowing air)
  2. Food allergies or intolerances
  3. Other, more serious conditions such as pyloric stenosis or an intestinal blockage.

Whilst serious conditions are almost always recognised by the medical profession, the other two causes are mostly ignored.

If you have ever worked with a baby who has reflux, or a parent of a child who struggles with reflux or has had a baby with reflux, then you will know how difficult this “disease” is.

No one takes mum seriously.

No one gives support to the family.

No one understands what it is like to live through reflux.

No one understands what it is like to hold your screaming baby and be completely helpless to do anything to help them.

This is where you professionals come in.

As a professional who works with babies, mothers and families who continue to fight and struggle to cope with the continual pain that reflux introduces into a family, you are in the perfect position to support these families in a greater capacity than they are currently being supported.

When we ask better questions, we get better answers.

From my work, I know that the number one cause of reflux is aerophagia.

This is most commonly caused by tongue tie. Yet I am finding so often that babies who are formula-fed are left completely unsupported by those who are best placed to correctly identify tongue ties.

To say I feel very strongly about this is more than an understatement.

I firmly believe that the only people properly qualified to identify a tongue tie are either Tongue Tie practitionersinternationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants or paediatric speech therapists.

I know this will cause upset.

I know there are very experienced breastfeeding counsellors out there who can diagnose a tongue tie.

But you are an exception to the rule.

I have had multiple clients tell me that their child was checked by the GP or health visitor and “doesn’t have a tie”, yet when I work through their symptoms, it is obvious to me that they do. And I don’t even have to meet these babies. I send them off to the proper professional, and it turns out 100% of my referrals do have ties that have been massive contributors to their reflux, and they see immediate and lasting improvements when cut.

Something that really angers me is the phrase, “There is a tongue tie, but it is not affecting feeding”.

I want to call time on these statements.


So, how can you support a baby with reflux?

In a baby with reflux, we must do everything we can to support them.


Fully understanding the impacts of tongue tie.

When you understand that drinking air is a major contributor to reflux, and babies with restricted tongue movement drink air as a by-product of having a tie, surely we must cut it?


What about bottle-fed babies?

Bottle-fed babies are completely ignored when it comes to tongue ties, and this is not fair.

A tongue tie will actually affect these babies more than a breastfed baby.

Because in a breastfed baby, the soft tissue of the breast can help fill the mouth and reduce air, bottles give no such flexibility. 

The tongue is crucial for much more than feeding...

Add to this that the tongue has a much greater role in life.

It is responsible for the development of the facial bones and muscles.

A baby with a tongue tie is more likely to require orthodontics later, solely due to the tie.

With restricted tongue movement, the palette of the mouth remains high instead of getting pulled downwards by the sucking forces of the tongue.

And without the tongue sitting in the upper jaw when at rest, the upper palette stays narrow rather than widening out.

This results in the diagnosis that “your mouth is not big enough for your teeth”. So we remove teeth and pull the remaining ones into a new position to look good. 

What if I told you that cutting a tongue tie in infancy will allow the face to develop to its proper structure and naturally allow every child to have enough space in their mouth for all their teeth?

What about the impact on speech?

And how do you think we speak? Our tongues help us shape words and sounds.

Having a tied tongue has massive effects on a baby’s speech and communication development, along with the social esteem elements that go along with speech delay.

My own unresolved tongue tie.

The ongoing pain and discomfort that an unresolved tongue-tie brings on a daily basis are clear to me.

I have a tongue tie.

I was never breastfed, and I suffered years of horrible pain and battles with braces.

I had 8 adult teeth extracted because “there wasn’t enough room in my mouth”.

I still have crooked teeth. And I still have to concentrate on articulating my speech every minute of every day.

For something that is so quick and simple to resolve in early life and could save so much pain and discomfort for the rest of a child’s life, why do we not check every child for a tongue tie?

Why do we skip over it like it’s not important?

And I dare not think how much money we would save the NHS if orthodontics were not needed as widely as they currently are...

This is not good enough.

This needs to change. 

 Want to learn more to support your clients through reflux?

If you are interested in learning more about how you can directly help your clients, understand their baby’s struggles more and point them to the right help, come and join one of my professional courses. 

There are three courses to choose from, and they build upon each other. The knowledge in each builds on what is taught in the previous one.

Take a look at your options here.


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