What you need to know if your baby has tongue-tie
What is a tongue-tie?
Tongue-tie, is also known as Ankyloglossia, is a common condition where an extra piece of skin goes from the floor of the mouth to the tongue. It holds the tongue in place and can be thicker or shorter than normal.
Why is the procedure needed?
Tongue-tie can sometimes affect breast-feeding, bottle feeding, speech and even kissing. Releasing the extra piece of skin can make using the tongue much easier and improve feeding for new babies. Not all babies with tongue-tie require division.
Before the procedure
You will be sent a letter confirming your appointment time and asking you to bring your red health book and a shawl to swaddle your baby in.
How is a tongue-tie procedure performed?
Treatment is very simple: the tongue-tie is snipped by a trained health professional. For babies under 4 months old no anaesthetic is needed.
Your baby will be wrapped in a shawl to ensure their arms do not wave around. You will be able to carry your baby to the procedure room where a nurse will look after them. You will then wait in another room until the procedure is done. A nurse will bring them back to you so you can feed them immediately.
Following the tongue-tie procedure
You will be able to feed your baby immediately after the tongue-tie has been released. You may notice a small amount of blood on your nipple, this is very normal and will very soon stop. There will be breastfeeding support available should you need it. It is important to remember that the tongue is a muscle and will need to get used to working in a different way.
- Ulcer formation which heals in 24-48 hours
- Improved latch so able to continue breast-feeding
- Reduced pain for Mum
- Reduced air swallowing
Alternatives to the procedure
- Do nothing and observe
Care at home
Your baby may have a small blister or ulcer under the tongue, but this will go after about 48 hours. There is minimal risk of infection, should this happen it is important to go to your GP.
We advise that you go back to the breast-feeding counsellor who referred you so they can check that the latch is correct.
Exercises to help your baby use their tongue
The tongue is a muscle and needs to get used to its movements. Babies are great mimics so:
- Stick your tongue out, they will soon copy you.
- Wiggle your tongue from side to side
- Move your finger around their lips so they follow it with their tongue.
These exercises will help your baby to move their tongue, aiding successful breastfeeding and preventing re-attachment.
Support on Breastfeeding and Tongue Tie
It is important to continue breastfeeding your baby on demand. This will increase your milk supply. Skin to skin contact is also helpful when milk supply has been reduced due to unsuccessful breast feeding prior to the tongue tie procedure:
- Find a comfortable position for you and your baby
- Baby's tummy must be against mum's tummy
- The baby's nose must be opposite your nipple
- The baby's head needs to be free to tilt backwards as he is brought to the breast
- The nipple and as much areola should go into baby's mouth
- It should not be painful