Milk tongue is characterized by a a white coating on baby's tongue that occurs when there isn't strong tongue to palate contact during feeding. This is not painful to baby, and may easily be wiped off. Milk tongue can an indication of a shallow latch, high palate, or tongue tie. Because the symptoms that co-occur often include painful nursing, nipple trauma, and a fussy baby, it can be misdiagnosed as thrush. But a baby with milk tongue may be fussy due to frustration with inability to maintain latch, as well as co-occurrence of aerophagia. .Aerophagia is swallowing air, which causes reflux-like symptoms when baby cannot maintain a latch.
Thrush can be distinguished by white patches on the tongue, as well as inside lips and cheeks. White coating is not evident inside lips and cheeks with milk tongue. Oral tissues are also often red and painful to baby.
If you and baby are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Find an IBCLC or infant feeding specialist to assess latch and baby's oral motor skills.