Gentle Births and Beyond 

Gentle by name Gentle by nature ©

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 or lower gum and restricts the tongue’s movement. Sometimes it is attached to the tip of the tongue, sometimes further back under the tongue.

How does tongue tie affect feeding?

Recent research has suggested that some babies with tongue tie may experience feeding difficulties. This is because a free moving tongue is vital to enable baby to attach effectively onto the breast and for remove an adequate amount of milk during feeding. Babies who are bottle feeding can also experience problems including dribbling and inability to create a seal around the teat so baby takes in air and becomes colicky and windy. However all mums and babies are different and some will be more affected by a tongue tie than others. Signs that may indicate feeding difficulties include:

For baby:

  • Difficulty attaching to the breast and/or difficulty staying attached (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 mother:

  • Pain and sore/damaged nipples due to baby clamping down on nipple to keep it in the mouth.
  • 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 whilst some may feed without any problems.

What other potential problems are associated with tongue tie?

It is impossible to predict whether a baby with a tongue tie will go on to experience speech or other problems as a result of tongue tie. There is currently no evidence to support dividing a tongue tie if the baby is feeding well. For this reason only babies who are experiencing feeding difficulties will be assessed for tongue tie division. If you have any concerns please ask to speak to a tongue tie practitioner.

How is tongue tie divided?

Tongue tie division (frenulotomy) is a very simple procedure in young babies. It takes only a minute or so, your baby may be wrapped up to prevent wriggling and the tongue tie divided with scissors. Babies don’t always like being wrapped up and some will cry at that point. The baby does not require any anesthetic or medication because the frenulum is poorly supplied with nerves and blood vessels. Some babies are asleep when the procedure is carried out and remain asleep.