Tongue-tie affects between three and ten percent of newborn babies, typically occurring more often in boys than girls. The frenulum (the piece of skin that is attached to the underside of the tongue and the bottom of the mouth) is too short and tight. This can sometimes mean that breastfeeding is more challenging for both baby and mother.
What tongue tie means
Tongue tie can make breastfeeding more difficult because the baby sometimes finds it difficult to latch on correctly. This often means that the baby may not receive enough milk, and consequently feed little and often. This poor attachment and frequent feeding can cause a mother’s nipples to become sore and cracked. If the tongue cannot protrude over the bottom lip, the breast is exposed to the hard gums of the baby’s mouth, which can cause pain. It can also lead to a depletion in milk supply over time if the problem persists.
What can be done?
If necessary (i.e. if breastfeeding is causing the mother pain and discomfort, or the baby is not receiving enough milk), the frenulum can be snipped. This is an easy procedure, that doesn’t require anaesthesia in newborn babies. It should heal very quickly and not require any follow up assessments. A baby should be able to resume breastfeeding immediately after the procedure.