How will I know if my baby has a tongue-tie?

How will I know if my baby has a tongue-tie? 

3 minute read 

Parents have often heard of babies having a tongue-tie and may worry that this is something which might affect their baby at birth or in later life. Up to 10% of babies can have some type of tongue-tie and this blog will help you understand more about what it is and whether you need further help and support. 

What is tongue-tie? 

A baby may be diagnosed with a tongue-tie if their frenulum has formed in a way that restricts or changes the movement their tongue has in their mouth. The frenulum is the piece of skin which anchors the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. In some babies it may extend towards the tip of the tongue more than normal or it could be thicker and more restricting where it is joined. It is important to remember that babies who have a tongue-tie may not be bothered by this at all and therefore it does not need to be considered a problem. 

How will I know if my baby has a tongue-tie? 

There are several ways you may discover if your baby has a tongue-tie that is causing them or you a problem: 

  • You may notice that your baby has a tongue-tie when you look, or you may look because a previous family member has had one (tongue-tie can run in families).
  • Your midwife may notice it during routine checks of your baby.
  • It may be seen during your baby’s newborn examination by a midwife or a paediatrician.
  • Your baby canstick their tongue very far out of their mouth.
  • You may experience problems whilst breastfeeding.
  • Occasionally problems can occur during formula feeding as your baby may swallow air and have more wind and tummy upsets.

Most babies with a tongue-tie will be able to feed perfectly well, but for some it may affect their abilities, especially those which are breastfeeding as the tongue is important for latch, attachment and being effective at stripping milk from the breast. They also need good tongue movement to be able to cover their lower gum, which can help to prevent the breast and/or nipple from becoming uncomfortable and sore. 

Signs that your baby is not feeding effectively at the breast 

  • ‘clicking’ noise may be heard during feeding but be aware this can be due to general latch and attachment issues as well, so talk to your midwife or breastfeeding supporter about this. 
  • Your baby might not feed for sustained periods of time and keep coming on and off the breast. 
  • Your baby may not settle after feeding, even if they have fed for a while, as they may be struggling to effectively remove milk from the breast. 
  • Your baby may not be gaining weight and your milk supply might be lower. This is because your baby can’t use their tongue effectively to remove enough milk and your breast may not be receiving enough stimulation to make more milk. 

Most breastfeeding issues are not caused by tongue-tie, but they may contribute towards sore and cracked nipples as well as mastitis. 

What can be done about your baby’s tongue-tie? 

If your baby has a tongue-tie it is not a problem unless it is causing a problem for them or you and this is usually related to breastfeeding, but occasionally bottle feeding too. If you experience any of the problems outlined, talk to your midwife or GP to rule out other causes or to be referred to a specialist for further investigations. 

Tongue-tie division 

Very small babies can have their frenulum snipped (frenotomy) in a quick outpatient procedure, but it could be that you need travel outside your local area to have this done. The procedure can be done with either a laser or sterile scissors, it takes a few seconds and your baby can go straight onto the breast to feed afterwards. 

Summary 

Tongue-tie in babies is not uncommon so it is useful to know how to identify it, what problems it may cause and where you can go to have obtain further help if it is causing you or your baby any problems. 

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