This is a very common condition where the tongue is tethered to the floor of the mouth by a cord or frenulum. There is no obvious cause for this condition, it’s just one of the variations in how we all are made.
In most babies this finding does not cause any problems. However, some babies can experience problems feeding.
The main issue is difficulty breast feeding e.g.
- difficulty establishing and maintaining a good latch
- cannot seal mouth around nipple, leading to leaking
- very painful nipples after prolonged attempts to latch
Advice from a midwife or lactation specialist is important before you consider tongue tie division as many issues can be overcome with adapting technique and breastfeeding aids. ndicated, the procedure is called a tongue tie release.
Tongue tie release procedure
In newborn babies and infants < 6 months, this can be done without a general anaesthetic. Baby is wrapped tight and sterile scissors are used to divide the cord of the frenulum. A little blood spotting is expected. Once this settles, baby is returned to parents for a feed.
We usually recommend that the baby is fed immediately after the procedure.
It is important to observe for a period to ensure there are no immediate complications.
Can tongue tie cause speech problems?
There is very little evidence that a tongue tie affects speech development. Some children who have very severe tongue ties may struggle with the pronunciation of certain letters.
Can baby grow out of this?
In many cases the frenulum stretches as the baby grows.
If baby is already established on bottle feeding and is able to do this effectively, it is possible to wait and see if the tongue tie resolves.
Does the procedure hurt?
It is difficult to be certain that the baby feels no pain at all, however the procedure takes only a few seconds and most babies do not appear to experience any discomfort.
Given the balance of risks, a few seconds of discomfort is often preferred to a general anaesthetic.
Are there any risks?
Complications are rare and recovery is immediate. However, you will be counselled about the following risks:
- Persistent bleeding: this is usually minor. It occurs if the division if extended too far into the base of the tongue, or if there is an underlying clotting problem.
- Recurrence: this is the risk of needing a repeat procedure as the tongue heals back into a tethered position.
- The procedure may make no difference to breast feeding