Tongue Tied & Breastfeeding

What is Tongue Tie “Ankyloglossia”?

A mucous membrane called the frenulum is centered on the underside of a baby’s tongue and attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

A defect like this can make it look as if the baby has a short tongue or sometimes no “free tongue “. A tongue-tied baby might have some problems moving the tongue up and down and side to side. A tight or short frenulum or tongue-tie can make it difficult for a baby to feed at the breast.

A baby cannot bring the tongue forward enough to get the nipple and areola into his/her mouth. Newborn tongue tied babies can sometimes breastfeed without problems, as long as a proper latch can be established.

Sucking is only possible with the forward movement of the jaw and tongue, and the tongue helps for the seal during breastfeeding. In the case of a baby who has this problem, the movement is restricted and, therefore, causes some sucking problems.

Nipple pain is the first sign of a tongue tie during breastfeeding.

Between 2 – 4% of all babies are born with tongue ties. Breastfeeding a tongue tied baby can be very frustrating, especially if you don’t know that your baby has this problem.

Breastfeeding Issues that could be Signs of Tongue Tie

  • Tongue tied babies cannot stick out their tongues, further than their lips.
  • The baby’s tongue is heart shaped at the tip.
  • The mother has sore nipples, blocked ducts and/or mastitis.
  • Tongue tie babies lose weight after birth, because they are not consuming enough milk. How to tell if your baby is drinking enough
  • A tongue-tied infant usually has a shallow latch while breastfeeding.
  • Babies with tongue tie are usually very fussy during feedings.
  • Suction is often broken during feedings and the baby chokes or makes clicking sounds while feeding. 
  • The mother's milk supply might be low, this is due to the fact that the milk transfer is hampered and not enough milk is being removed from the breasts. 
  • The milk might dribble down the baby’s mouth while feeding, since he/she cannot make a proper seal.
  • The baby is biting or chewing on your breast instead of sucking.

A breastfeeding relationship is not trouble-free for everyone. So, problems might have zero to do with tongue-tie, in which case your midwife, health visitor or breastfeeding consultant should still be able to help you and your baby.

If you and your little one are experiencing at least three of these symptoms mentioned above, and those symptoms are not GONE by the time your baby is 1 week old, it is time to see a specialist, who is knowledgeable about the frenotomy procedure. (snipping the skin under the tongue, to free the tongue)

Fix Tied Tongue

  • Tongue tie surgery. When it starts to cause breastfeeding problems, a procedure called “frenetomy” can be done to clip the frenum.
  • This procedure is also sometimes called “clipping tongue” or “frenulum clip”.
  • There is hardly any bleeding and the baby can nurse immediately after the procedure. Some doctors might say that they do not do this procedure anymore, which is not true.
  • There are many doctors who still do the operation, because it allows the mother and baby to continue to breastfeed. If your doctor refuses to do the tongue tie release frenulectomy procedure, you can find somebody who will.
  • Wait it out. Sometimes it is possible that the frenulum will stretch out on its own as a result of the baby's sucking.

Severe Tongue Tie

    This is when the frenulum is very short or when it is attached to the tip of the tongue. It may cause some speech problems later in life, if the frenulum is not cut. A tongue tied toddler might struggle pronouncing “th, l, f, g, n, r, “

Other pages on “breastfeeding-problems” with pages related to this page on tongue tie breastfeeding

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Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr. Currently studying through Child birth International (CBC, CBD). Also an accomplished author and Mommy of two.