Why is My Baby Underweight?
The Link Between Underweight Babies and Lip and Tongue-Tie Conditions
Curious eyes, wandering hands, chubby cheeks and fat rolls make babies irresistible to love. Parents and relatives are excited to watch the child grow. Some may even post pictures on social media to share tender memories with others. “Cherish these moments. They don’t stay little forever,” one may comment before hitting the “like” and “share” buttons.
But, what if your baby is not growing as big as other babies? Could your baby be struggling with weight gain? Healthy weight is important especially for a growing child. However, underweight babies are likely to have an underlying issue. There are a number of health related reasons. Therefore, it is important to note that an underweight baby could be suffering from lip and tongue-tie conditions - a health concern many parents and pediatricians overlook.
At birth, infants tend to be thin with swollen faces and loud cries which usually indicate hunger. Babies under 6 months need to be fed every 1-3 hours and require less frequent feedings as they get older. Breastfeeding under 6 months is highly recommended due to the nourishing factors that commercial formulas lack. Breast milk has the ideal composition of nutrients that babies need and easily digest. Studies have also shown that breast milk decreases the risks of future medical issues such as asthma, allergies, and obesity.
Regardless if a parent chooses breast milk or commercial formula, babies are expected to gain weight. Baby fat is essential because it helps babies grow and protects them from illnesses. Fat is usually accumulated in the legs and arms. While, some fat is stored in the cheeks. Healthy weight gain will vary between babies due to genetics and feedings. Nonetheless, proper feeding should result in healthy weight gain.
Adequate feedings are a common concern among parents, especially new mothers. They may notice poor weight gain or simply want reassurance from a pediatrician. As most would agree, proper nourishment is crucial to any child’s development. Therefore, it is important to seek a lip and tongue-tie consultation if any of the following symptoms apply:
- Difficult tongue movement such as side to side and outward
- Gasping for air while feeding
- Infant falls asleep while feeding before consuming enough milk
- Infant has gas or hiccups after feeding
- Poor latching
- Smacking sounds while feeding
- Infant latches with gums
- Infant has oral blisters
- Low weight
- Gulps milk
- Inability to use pacifier
- Prefers the bottle instead of breast
These symptoms could lead to malnourishment. Thus, parents should act quickly. Seek consultation from a lip and tongue-tie specialist right away. Early treatment is highly recommended to avoid malnourishment and other complications that result from lip and tongue-tie conditions.
Lip and Tongue-Tie Conditions
Malnourishment is a concern for infants with untreated lip and tongue-tie conditions. Infants born with tight upper lip and/or tongue frenula, or thin tissues, is known as lip-tie and tongue-tie.These conditions restrict the upper lip and tongue from moving naturally. Consequently, feeding becomes difficult for the infant. Parents may notice poor weight gain, reflux, and poor latching as these are more noticeable signs. As a result, malnourishment is likely to occur since milk consumption is limited despite the parent’s best efforts.
Aside from malnourishment, lip and tongue-ties create future complications as well. Left untreated, your child can later develop other health related issues such as:
- Teeth grinding or clenching
- Sleep apnea
- Mouth breathing
- Difficulty chewing food
- Delayed speech
- Dental health issues
- Speech issues
- Neck, back, or jaw pain
- Narrow airways
- Difficulty sleeping
- Narrow palate or upper jaw
- Underbite or overbite
- Chronic asthma
Untreated lip and tongue-ties result in a lifetime of coping with these health complications. For example, children are likely to develop airway issues that result in mouth breathing, a narrow palate, sleep apnea, and snoring. Migraines and speech issues are another concern that affects the child. Even adulthood will be difficult. These health issues are likely to continue and may worsen as an adult. Therefore, we highly recommend treating lip and tongue-ties as soon as possible. Your child deserves the best opportunity to a healthy life.
CO2 Laser Treatment
Lip and tongue-ties are treatable for all ages, including infants. We recommend CO2 laser treatment which is the most effective and modern way to release the frenula. This method is highly preferred by parents due to many advantages. Not only is the procedure virtually painless, but it also sterilizes instantly. Infants are able to breastfeed immediately with improved latching. Other advantages include minimal blood loss, swelling, and scarring. Also, the procedure takes a matter of seconds and can be performed on infants as young as a few days old.
The CO2 laser uses carbon dioxide to effectively vaporize soft tissue while sterilizing the affected area. It was first introduced in the 1960’s resulting in numerous procedures performed. Only those certified can perform such a procedure as this technique requires a thorough examination and a high level of precision. In addition, the certified professional will instruct the parent on how to assist the infant with required exercise. These techniques improve breastfeeding and prevents reattachment of the frenula.
Contact a Lip and Tongue-Tie Specialist
As mentioned previously, untreated lip and tongue-tie can cause poor weight gain which raises the concern of malnourishment. Other health concerns are possible and should be avoided by treating lip and tongue-ties as soon as possible. Parents are advised to seek a consultation from an experienced specialist should their baby exhibit any of the stated symptoms. Low weight is an obvious sign along with poor latching and reflux. Infants should not struggle with feeding. Therefore, seek a consultation. Poor weight gain could be the result of an untreated lip and/or tongue-tie condition.
About Dr. Fawn Rosenberg, DMD, FAGD
Dr. Fawn Rosenberg graduated from Tufts School of Dental Medicine in 1985 and received her Fellowship from the Academy of General Dentistry in 1990. Since then, Dr. Rosenberg has been using a variety of lasers in dentistry for more than 20 years. Her credentials have been recognized at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at Tufts, Boston, and Harvard universities where she previously held staff appointments.
Dr. Rosenberg is a firm believer of continuing her education and participating in dental organizations. She is an active member of the Massachusetts Dental Society, Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, International Affiliation of Tongue-tie Professionals and International Consortium of Oral Ankylofrenula Professionals.
For more information, please contact Dr. Fawn Rosenberg at:
Lexington Smile Studio
922 Waltham St, Suite 202
Lexington, MA 02421