We are very excited to bring you this article, written by Claire Rubidge (The Milky Club Infant Feeding Support), Breastfeeding Counsellor and Infant Feeding Coach.
In this article, Claire answers any questions you may have on tongue ties.
- What is Tongue Tie?
- How is Tongue Tie Diagnosed?
- What are the two types of Tongue Tie?
- What Are The Symptoms of Tongue-Tie In A Breastfed Baby?
- Can Mums Spot Any Signs When It Comes To Tongue-Tie?
- Does Feeding A Tongue-Tied Baby Hurt?
- Can A Tongue-Tied Baby Still Breastfeed?
- What Problems Can A Tongue-Tied Baby Have When Breastfeeding?
- What Does A Tongue-Tied Baby Sound Like When Breastfeeding?
- Can Tongue-Tie Disappear On Its Own?
- How is Tongue Tie Treated?
- When Should I Contact an Expert?
- Contact Claire – Breastfeeding Expert
What is Tongue Tie?
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where the lingual frenulum, the piece of tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, is too short or tight, and restricts the tongue’s movement. Most people are born with a frenulum, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is tied.
How is Tongue Tie Diagnosed?
Only tongues that have restricted tongue function due to a too short or tight lingual frenulum should be officially diagnosed as Tongue-Tie.
To diagnose tongue tie, a thorough tongue tie assessment- including a full feeding assessment- will be performed by a Tongue-Tie Practitioner.
Parents can find Practitioners on the The Association of Tongue-Tie Practitioners website (www.tongue-tie.org.uk).
What are the two types of Tongue Tie?
When it comes to tongue tie, there are two main types: anterior tongue tie and posterior tongue tie.
Anterior Tongue Ties
Anterior tongue tie is when the frenulum attaches to the front of the tongue, near the tip. This type of tongue tie is typically easier to spot, as the tongue may have a distinctive heart-shaped or forked appearance when the baby tries to stick it out.
Posterior Tongue Ties
Posterior tongue tie, on the other hand, is when the frenulum attaches to the back of the tongue, near the base of the underside of the tongue. This type of tongue tie can be harder to spot, as the baby may appear to have a normal-looking tongue. However, it can still cause feeding difficulties, as the tongue may not be able to extend or move properly during breastfeeding.
What Are The Symptoms of Tongue-Tie In A Breastfed Baby?
Tongue tie can cause a range of symptoms for breastfeeding babies. Below are potential tongue tie symptoms:
- Difficulty latching or staying attached to the breast
- Poor weight gain
- Clicking sounds during feeding
- Nipple damage and pain for the mother.
However, it is also very important to note that these symptoms can also be symptoms of poor positioning and attachment. Therefore, it is vital that a thorough feeding assessment by an experienced feeding specialist such as a Breastfeeding Counsellor or IBCLC Lactation Consultant has ruled this out first.
Can Mums Spot Any Signs When It Comes To Tongue-Tie?
Yes, mothers can potentially spot signs of tongue tie in their baby. Read below to find out the potential signs:
Sore or Persistently Damaged Nipples
One common sign is sore or persistently damaged nipples. When a baby has a tongue tie, they may have difficulty latching on properly and can cause damage to the mother’s nipples due to their inability to feed effectively.
Another sign that a mother can look for is nipple blanching, where the nipples turn white after a feed. This can be an indication that the baby is not latching on properly or is not able to effectively remove milk from the breast.
If the baby’s tongue tie is causing difficulty with proper latch and feeding, the mother may also notice that her nipples are coming out of the baby’s mouth, misshapen, or with a lipstick shape, despite good positioning. This can lead to decreased milk transfer and lower milk supply due to ineffective breastfeeding.
In addition to these physical signs, mothers may also experience mastitis, inflammation of the breast, due to the baby’s inability to effectively drain the breast. This can lead to low mood, discomfort, and exhaustion from frequent and constant feeding attempts.
Consult a Tongue Tie Practictioner
Overall, if a mother is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to consult with a Tongue-Tie Practitioner to assess the baby for a potential tongue tie.
Does Feeding A Tongue-Tied Baby Hurt?
Feeding a tongue-tied baby can be painful for the mother, as the baby may struggle to latch or maintain a proper latch, causing damage to the nipples.
However, as previously stated, it is important to rule out any issues with positioning and attachment before pointing the finger at tongue-tie.
Can A Tongue-Tied Baby Still Breastfeed?
A baby that has an anterior tongue-tie (where the lingual frenulum is attached close to the tip of the tongue), may struggle greatly to transfer milk effectively due to the likelihood of restrictive tongue function. These tongue-ties however are easily spotted, and are therefore usually divided very early on, when the baby is very young.
Posterior tongue-ties on the other hand are a lot more difficult to spot as they are toward the back of the underside of the tongue. Babies with this tongue-tie can still breastfeed well with the appropriate support from a skilled infant feeding specialist. It all depends on the severity of the tongue-tie in terms of how it impedes tongue function.
What Problems Can A Tongue-Tied Baby Have When Breastfeeding?
A tongue-tied baby can experience a range of problems when it comes to breastfeeding.
Firstly, a tight or restricted lingual frenulum can result in a small mouth gape which can cause difficulty in achieving a good attachment.
This means that the baby may not be able to take in as much milk as they need, leading to frequent feeds or excessively long and drawn-out feeds.
Additionally, the baby may experience biting or grinding behaviour during feeding as a result of a restricted tongue movement, causing discomfort for both the baby and the mother.
A tongue-tied baby may also become unsettled during feeds due to wind, frustration, or hunger.
They may have difficulty maintaining a latch at the breast, which can cause the baby to become frustrated and upset.
Additionally, a tongue-tied baby may experience excessive early weight loss or poor weight gain, which can be a cause for concern.
Other problems include clicking or slipping noises and/or dribbling during feeds on breast or bottle, as well as increased colic, wind, hiccups, and reflux (regurgitation of milk after feeds).
What Does A Tongue-Tied Baby Sound Like When Breastfeeding?
When a baby is tongue-tied, they may make clicking or smacking sounds while breastfeeding.
These sounds can indicate that the baby is not latching or feeding properly.
In addition, a tongue-tied baby may make noises such as grunting or gulping, indicating difficulty swallowing milk.
It’s important to note that not all babies who make these sounds while breastfeeding are necessarily tongue-tied, as other factors such as a poor latch or low milk supply can also cause feeding difficulties.
Can Tongue-Tie Disappear On Its Own?
In some cases, a mild tongue tie may stretch and become less restrictive as the baby grows and the mouth matures. However, in most cases, tongue tie will not go away on its own and may require intervention.
How is Tongue Tie Treated?
A method of tongue tie treatment is a tongue tie division.
A tongue tie division is a simple surgical procedure which involves cutting the frenulum, to release your baby’s tongue, so the tongue can move freely.
Tongue tie divisions are very quick and are thought to be painless.
In most cases, a tongue tie division resolves feeding difficulties, however, feeding problems persist in some babies, even after a tongue tie division.
When Should I Contact an Expert?
If you are concerned about your baby’s feeding, baby’s weight or suspect that your baby may have a tongue tie, you should consult a health care professional, who will be able to provide you with advice.
Contact Claire – Breastfeeding Expert
Would you like some support with breastfeeding?
If so, you can book in a COMPLETELY FREE 30 minute Clarity Call with Claire, for information about her services and how she can help.
You can also contact Claire via telephone and email:
Email: [email protected]
Hi, I’m Claire!
I am an Infant Feeding Coach and Breastfeeding Counsellor; fully Accredited and Indemnity Insured with the Federation of Antenatal Educators (FEDANT).
I Hold Space for infant feeding from Conception to Weaning. I provide holistic, unbiased and evidence-based support with breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pumping and formula feeding.
I am a Mother to two vibrant boys; Fergus (2018), and Douglas (2022).
I know from personal experience how all-consuming and tough breastfeeding can be, as I had a very rocky start to my first breastfeeding journey.
My Mission for The Milky Club is to support as many of you as I can with your infant feeding journey; however that looks for you.