Tongue tie (or Ankyloglossia) is a condition where the piece of skin (frenulum) under the baby's tongue is short, and can stop the tongue from moving properly. Although it does not always cause a problem, some babies can have difficulty with breastfeeding, as the baby cannot take enough of the breast into his/her mouth.
Problems with breastfeeding may include
Not latching on properly
Falling off the breast easily
Sore nipples for mum
Baby does not gain much weight
Seems to want to feed constantly
Poor drainage of milk can lead to mastitis
What can be done to change this?
If you are having the above problems and think your baby may be tongue tied. Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP. They can then refer your baby to a specialist who may offer to snip the tongue tie if they feel it necessary and in most cases it helps the baby to feed better.
How is it done?
Once you have been seen by the specialist, they may snip the tongue tie with sterilised scissors. The procedure actually lasts only a minute, and research shows that some babies have actually stayed asleep whilst having it done, so there is no proof that it actually hurts them! As soon as the operation is over, your baby is returned to you for feeding, as this is the best way to comfort him/her. A few drops of blood may be seen and this is normal, but the inside of the mouth heals quicker than any other part of the body, so all baby needs is to be fed and cuddled. You may see a small white patch under the tongue where the tongue tie was snipped but it does not seem to cause any discomfort.
You can read about this in more detail, click here to download a leaflet.
In a recent study of babies who had been given the tongue tie snip, it was found that 80% of mothers reported better breastfeeding within 24 hours. Not all babies who have a tongue tie will need surgery to correct it, it will be based on how bad it is, but it may help your baby to breastfeed more easily.
Written with guidance from "division of Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie) for breastfeeding" (NICE 2005).