Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition in which the thin piece of skin under a baby’s tongue (the frenulum) is shorter than normal, meaning it may restrict the movement of the tongue. This can sometimes make it harder for a baby to breastfeed (and sometimes bottle feed). If you suspect that your baby may have a tongue tie, this should be assessed by a trained healthcare professional such as a GP, midwife, health visitor or lactation consultant.
Tongue tie can sometimes impact on a baby’s ability to breastfeed effectively. It can mean that a baby may not be able to move their tongue fully up and down or side-to-side or they might not be able to stick their tongue out beyond their lower lip. If tongue tie does interfere with a baby’s ability to latch and suckle at the breast it can cause:
- nipple pain and trauma for mum
- poor breast milk intake leading to poor weight gain
- a possible decrease in milk supply over time.
- Fussy, gassy baby due to poor latch and baby swallowing air when feeding
- More chance of engorgement and possible mastitis due to the breasts not being emptied effectively at each feed
Sometimes, babies who have a tongue tie have no problems at all with feeding. They may still be able to go onto the breast and feed effectively – so not every case of tongue tie needs treatment and assessment by a trained health professional and someone trained in infant feeding is vital.
If the tongue tie is causing problems, it can be treated with tongue tie division, which involves cutting the short, tight piece of skin connecting the underside of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. This must be done by a trained healthcare professional.
After having a tongue tie divided some mums find things get easier quite quickly and others find it can take a while to improve. Support from a breastfeeding practitioner to adapt positioning and attachment can be useful and your baby might need some time to practice and adapt to a slightly different way of feeding. Spending time in skin-to-skin and encouraging your baby to feed when calm and relaxed can also help. You can ask your health care professional about pain relief for your baby if needed.
You can find more information on tongue tie on these pages:
The Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners lists tongue-tie practitioners in the UK
Links checked April 2023