Tongue Tie – Medically known as Ankyloglossia

What is a tongue tie?

Tongue tie is where the strip of skin, frenulum, between the underside of the tongue and the floor of their mouth is shorter than usual anchoring it down and restricting movement.

If your baby has a tongue tie it will hopefully be picked up by your health professional at birth during their routine check.  However, lots aren’t and sometimes it is only noticed some weeks later, and a few weeks for a newborn is obviously a significant amount of time.

Does it cause any problems for baby?

Sometimes a tongue tie doesn’t cause any problems and if this is the case, then no treatment is needed at all.

However, it can interfere with feeding your baby.  Especially breastfeeding as commonly babies can’t open their mouths wide enough to latch on securely to withdraw milk from your breast.  To have a successful and comfortable feed, babies need to be able to take some breast tissue into their mouths and not just the nipple.

If they aren’t latched correctly you may hear a clicking or sucking noise as their mouths slip off.  This might also mean they take in more air when feeding so adding to a gassy tummy too.

Although it’s common for babies to feed often, sometimes every hour, if this is constant and combined with an unsettled and unsatisfied baby consistently after every feed, it is worth checking their tongue for a tie.

How can I check if my baby has a tongue tie?

Always see your health professional as soon as you have any worries about tongue tie.  It is quick to diagnose and worth getting it looked at because it can really impact whether you and your baby are successful at breastfeeding due to the difficulties it can cause.

You can also have a look at your baby’s mouth yourself, some tongue ties are much more obvious than others.  An obvious thing to look for is the actual string of tissue, like a little thread from tongue to floor of mouth. 

It is also worth putting your clean fingers in their mouth and sliding from one side to another, underneath their tongue.  Sometimes you can’t always see an obvious frenulum but you may be able to feel the tightness there.  The best position for your baby to be in to do this check is lying down with their head on your lap, facing upwards, feet pointing away from you.

What can be done if my baby has a tongue tie?

A trained medical professional can snip the frenulum freeing up any tension it is causing and allowing the mouth to gain full range of movement.  A frenotomy is a quick procedure with a very good success rate.  You may need to spend some time afterwards relearning your latch again as it may feel very different to both you and your baby.