Tongue-tie is a condition that around five percent of new born babies are born with. It occurs when the thin piece of skin under the tongue (the frenulum) is short and restricts the baby’s movement of their tongue.
Successful breastfeeding is often impacted by tongue-tie in that the restricted movement of the baby’s tongue means that they either can’t latch on to the nipple properly or they don’t have the range of movement needed to remove the milk from the breast.
It needs to be diagnosed by a medical professional. Your care-giver will need to examine the inside of your baby’s mouth including placing their finger inside the mouth the assess the range of movement and suckle reflex, see them breastfeed, and discuss a range of symptoms with the mother. Tongue-tie can not be diagnosed through a photograph.
Symptoms mainly manifest in the mother so she should consider:
A diagnosis of tongue-tie isn’t clear-cut, it can be quite subjective. There is no universally accepted classification of tongue-tie. If you get conflicting diagnoses – neither is ‘wrong’ as such, which is often why health professionals take a ‘wait and see’ approach.
Tongue-tie can be treated by snipping the frenulum. This is called a frenotomy. It can be performed by a paediatrician, paediatric dentist, GP, ENT specialist, a specially trained midwife or lactation consultant and it is done using sterile scissors or by laser.
A frenotomy is a simple and straight forward procedure that only takes a few seconds to complete. An anaesthetic is not required and if it followed by a breastfeed immediately after this will help alleviate any discomfort the baby may feel.
Improvement in breastfeeding can be seen immediately for some, but may take longer for others. The mother may notice an immediate change in the way her baby attaches or feeds, but it may take a few weeks for problems to completely resolve.