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Tongue Tie: What is it?

Article By
Published On
15 Feb, 2021
Read Time
2 minutes

A tongue-tie (also known as ankyloglossia) is when the little strip of skin connecting your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is shorter than usual. Anyone can develop a tongue-tie in the womb but it can also be hereditary, so if you know you had a tongue-tie as a baby or live with one now, it might be something you want to double check on your newborn.

Tongue-tie's are often the first point of call if you're struggling with breastfeeding or your little one isn't gaining as much weight as you'd hoped. Although it's only apparent in around 4-11% of newborns, you might hear it come up from your mum friends. It can cause some challenges - but people can absolutely live and thrive with tongue-ties.

Let us tell you a little more about what to look out for and what you can do to help your little one with a tongue-tie.

What are the signs of a tongue tie?

It's not always the easiest thing to spot and your doctor might not notice it immediately after your little one is born. But there are definitely some signs you can look out for that might signify a tongue-tie, and then if you notice these signs, it's best to check in with your baby's doctor to make sure.

Breastfeeding is painful

Some new mums think that pain is just a side effect to breastfeeding. But if there are no issues involved, breastfeeding should be pain-free. A tongue-tie can affect your baby's latch onto your nipple and can make your nipples sore and breastfeeding in general painful.

Your little one isn't gaining weight or they seem to be hungry all the time

This goes hand-in with having trouble breastfeeding. If they aren't latched correctly, they might be struggling to get a good amount of milk out during feeds. You might even find that you're feeding for extended periods of time and your baby still seems irritated and hungry.

They make a smacking sound when they are feeding

When you breastfeed with no issues, you're likely to hear quiet noises of suckling, swallowing and breathing, and that's pretty much it. If your baby is having bother latching on properly, they might reposition their lips or tongue and cause a smacking or clicking sound.

How can a tongue toe be treated?

If you and your baby have found a way to feed successfully with a tongue-tie, you absolutely don't have to consider treatment. Many adults live with tongue-ties and have no issues and in some cases, tongue-ties can actually loosen and ease as your child gets older. But if you are struggling and are worried about future issues, you can opt for tongue-tie division.

Tongue-tie division is a quick procedure that involves cutting the piece of skin causing the problems - and that's literally it. If your baby is really young, they'll probably numb the tongue and just cut and that's it. It shouldn't cause a lot of pain for your baby and doesn't involve a lot of bleeding and then should heal within a couple of days. If your baby is a little older, your doctor might want to put them under general anesthetic and cut the tongue-tie while they're asleep. After that, you'll probably notice that breastfeeding is a lot easier for you and your little one.

Getting a tongue-tie cut is a safe and simple solution to your breastfeeding bother. But again, everyone is different and deals with situations in their own way. You might find that, with help from specialists, you can breastfeed successfully even with the tongue-tie. Or if you've found that bottle feeding with expressed breast-milk or formula is a simpler solution, that's totally fine and up to you.