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Tongue Tie

What is a tongue-tie?

  • A tongue-tie is an extra piece of skin that goes from underneath the tongue to the floor of the mouth.
  • Sometimes it is attached to the tip of the tongue, sometimes further back under the tongue.
  • Most tongue-ties are very thin and long, a few are thicker and chunky.
  • It is thought that around half of the babies with a tongue-tie have someone else in the family who also has a tongue- tie.
  • Tongue-tie is more common in boys than girls

Does tongue-tie affect babies?

Recent research has suggested that some tongue-tied babies may experience feeding difficulties. The reason for this is that a free moving tongue is very important for proper latching onto the breast and for effective removal of milk from the breast during feeding. However all mums’ and babies are different and some will be more affected by a tongue-tie than others’. The signs that may indicate possible difficulties are:

For baby:

  • Difficulty latching onto the breast and/or difficulty staying attached once latched onto the breast (seems to keep “slipping off”)
  • Feeding for very long periods - almost continuously, due to baby being unable to obtain a good feed.
  • Baby may be very unsettled and seem hungry most of the time.
  • Weight gain may be poor

For Mum:

  • Sore/damaged nipples
  • Milk supply may dwindle due to baby not being able to remove milk from the breast adequately
  • Mastitis - often reoccurring due to milk being left in the breast.

Some mothers’ and babies may have only one of these problems, others may experience more of them and some may feed without any problems.

Can tongue-tie be released in order alleviate feeding difficulties?

Before we became a bottle-feeding society in the last century, doctors and midwives knew that a tongue-tie might affect a baby’s feeding and would release it in order to help the mother and baby. As bottle use became more common, tongue-tie as a possible cause of breastfeeding problems was forgotten. Over the last few years studies have been carried out both in the UK and in the USA which have shown that tongue tie may cause feeding problems for some babies and that releasing it has a very beneficial effect on the breastfeeding difficulties described.

How is tongue-tie treated?

In the early months of life a tongue-tie is released by a simple procedure that takes just a few seconds. The baby does not require an anaesthetic, there is usually just a few spots of blood and baby will be brought back to mum immediately for a breastfeed. Very rarely a tongue tie may reform and require further surgery as the child gets older.

If you would like further information on tongue-tie or the procedure to release it please discuss with your midwife or health visitor. They can make an appointment for you to attend the breastfeeding clinic for further assessment if tongue tie appears to be causing breastfeeding difficulties.