Tinto logo

What is tongue tie and what can you do about it?

Ankyloglossia – more commonly known as tongue tie – is where the strip of skin tethering the tongue to the bottom of the mouth (lingual frenulum) is shorter or tighter than usual.

Your midwife might look for tongue tie in the newborn assessment, but it is sometimes hard to notice until feeding begins.

For some babies, tongue tie does not affect them at all. But for others, it can cause problems with feeding.

During breastfeeding, a baby’s mouth should cover the nipple but also some breast, and their lower gum should be covered with their tongue so that the nipple is somewhat protected (thanks, baby).

If your baby has tongue tie however, this can be tricky as they may not be able to stretch and lift their tongue enough, which can be painful for you and interfere with the flow of milk. You might notice that baby makes a clicking sound as they can’t latch on properly.

Often, tongue tie does not need to be treated at all. You can encourage your baby to stretch their tongue by sticking your tongue out at them.

But if their feeding is being affected, you may be offered tongue-tie division (frenotomy). This involves cutting the tight piece of skin on the bottom of the tongue with a pair of round-ended scissors or by cauterising it.

Don’t worry, it’s not painful - some babies even sleep through the procedure! No anaesthetic is needed for a baby under the age of six months.

You can continue to breastfeed immediately, which will also help to keep the wound clean before it heals within around 24 or 48 hours.