Tongue tie is not uncommon. Unfortunately there is little support and advice for parents. I hope this article will help families get the help they need if their baby has tongue tie.
What is Tounge Tie?
The medical term for tongue tie is ankyloglossia. It is a condition where a membrane under the tongue prevents its full movement. This membrane often disappears during baby’s development in the womb, but it may still be present at birth, and even persist into adulthood. The membrane may be very tight, thick, or attached further forward than normal; it may also be hidden at the back of the tongue (this is called a posterior tie) There may also be a lip tie, which can cause similar issues. The tongue tie can be mild or severe, but can’t be judged from appearance alone. There is sometimes a family history, with boys more often affected than girls
Research carried out in the UK in 2005 found that 1 in 10 babies had tongue tie, but half of them had no early feeding problems. Many tongue tied babies find it hard to feed from the breast or the bottle. Later on in life, a tongue tie may also cause problems with chewing and swallowing, saying certain letters (like ‘T’ or ‘D’), or using the tongue for various activities (like licking, using a wind instrument, and kissing).
How can I tell if my baby has tounge tie?
- You may notice that your baby’s tongue remains fixed or low in at the bottom of their mouth. This is especially noticeable when your baby is crying. Their tongue may not move very much (see photo 1).
- There are other signs to look out for. Your baby may feed frequently, be unsettled, or not put on enough weight (despite constant feeding). You may get sore nipples (for no apparent reason) and notice a reduction in your milk supply – this can be the result of poor attachment caused by the tongue tie. If this happens, you should speak to a health professional who specialises in infant feeding. They will tell you if your baby has tongue tie and arrange any necessary treatment.
How is tounge tie treated?
- Treatment should be relatively simple: the tongue tie is simply snipped. This causes little if any pain or bleeding, and needs to be done as soon as possible. Your midwife, lactation consultant or healthcare professional may be able to arrange local treatment. This should only be carried out by a trained professional.
- Snipping the tongue tie often solves the problem instantly with few, if any, side effects. Occasionally, the initial snip fails to cure the problem, and sometimes scar tissue can grow to make a second snip necessary. See photo 2.
Also Read: Beginning Baby-Led Weaning
Article reproduced by kind permission of Sharon Trotter.
Midwife, mother and baby consultant.
Founder and director of TIPS Ltd.
Photo 1 – tounge tie before snip
Photo 2 – soon after the snip
Happy baby. Tounge fully healed