Most people who know me know that I’m becoming a bit of a tongue tie geek. Not only did my own son have a posterior tongue tie, but I have now supported numerous mums through their journey of the tongue tie maze, and have been a big factor in some of those babies getting their tongue ties recognised.
***Disclaimer ~ as a doula, it is NOT my role to diagnose. But just as I might recognise signs of mastitis and give information on self-help and refer a mama to her doctor if needed, I cannot help but recognise signs of tongue tie in babies I see with it, and I then signpost mamas accordingly. Sadly, I am often the first person to recognise issues around tongue tie and provide appropriate information. It shouldn’t happen that a doula can become more expert in tongue tie than the health professionals, but it does and so I deal with it ***
Not long ago, I saw a few shares of the article ‘Is your Baby’s Blue Vein a Sugar Bug?’. A “sugar bug” is a visible blue vein on the bridge of a baby’s nose, right between the eyes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a sugar bug is a sign of a child who may have digestive issues, may be sensitive to sugar and may be “high needs”.
Digestive issues and “high needs” or “sensitivity” are some of the less usual factors that I look for when thinking about whether a baby may be tongue-tied. I’m interested in whether this “sugar bug” could be another sign that could be linked with possible tongue tie.
So, why would a baby have a sugar bug?
Two hypotheses I’ve heard about this are that it’s a sign of cranial compression and that it’s a midline defect (or ‘midline difference’ as I like to refer to the minor variations. Your baby is not defective if it has this!). Well, both of those are connected with tongue tie.
A tongue tie is when there is a frenulum connecting the tongue to the base of the mouth and this is restricting the function of the tongue. Sometimes a tongue tie can be so restrictive that a baby cannot yawn fully and has their lower jaw held tightly back. When the tie is released, the whole face shape can change, sometimes within a matter of a few hours. So, not surprisingly, a tongue tie can cause muscular/fascial tension in the head, jaw, neck and shoulders (so cranial compression) of an affected baby (or adult!).
I have read articles with Osteopaths discussing how cranial compression may put pressure on the blood vessels, pushing this vein to the surface and making it more visible.
Midline defects make up a huge range of conditions that can affect babies. Ranging from the relatively mild (e.g. tongue tie) to severe (e.g. heart defects or spina bifida), midline defects are when there was a problem in an embryo’s development when the 2 halves of an embryo fuse. They are seen in the midline vertical axis of the body, so they can affect a lot of different things!
I’m no doctor, so all I can say about whether the “sugar bug” could be another midline defect is that it’s on the midline of the body, so I guess so. I couldn’t find any papers on PubMed (the database of published medical journal articles) linking tongue tie (medical name angkyloglossia) with a higher risk of other midline defects, but a brief scan of some of the papers on other midline defects did suggest that having one midline defect may mean someone has a higher risk of others.
So, could a “sugar bug” be linked with tongue tie? I don’t know. and given where we are with tongue tie research and medicine, when many doctors dismiss issues caused by tongue tie, I can’t see this being a priority for research. But I’d love to get some feedback. Does your baby have a sugar bug? Did/do they have tongue-tie? Or if you don’t know, were they actually ever assessed for tongue function by an experienced lactation consultant?