A tongue tie (also known as ankyloglossia) is restriction of tongue movement caused by a short or tight membrane (the lingual frenulum) under the tongue.
Some babies may benefit from having a tongue tie released, enabling them to breastfeed or bottle feed more effectively.
It is hereditary in many cases, and the mother, father or other close relative may have one.
Babies with a tongue-tie who are having difficulties with breastfeeding initially may need help with optimal positioning and attachment of the baby to the breast. The baby with a tongue tie who is not well attached, will compress the nipple, not the breast, when feeding and as a result may not get sufficient milk. This may also cause nipple pain and trauma when breastfeeding. Therefore, if difficulties persist, after a thorough feeding assessment, dividing (sometimes referred to as releasing or snipping) the tongue tie and allowing increased tongue movement will assist the baby to attach effectively to the breast.
Please visit our breastfeeding page to learn more about optimising positioning and attachment while awaiting a tongue tie assessment.
Some bottle feeding babies who have a tongue tie, may also have difficulty feeding, as they can have problems forming a good seal around the teat leading to slow feeds, dribbling or irritability with feeds. You may find that standard slow flow bottles (such as supermarket ‘own brand’ bottles) are easier for babies to feed from than some widely advertised brands with wider or more unusual shape teats.
If your baby has a restrictive frenulum which may be impacting breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you will be referred to the Infant Feeding Team for further assessment.
It is important to note that not all tongue ties need to be divided and in some situations breastfeeding problems can be prevented or resolved by the mother receiving correct support right from the beginning.
If you need further advice or support on this subject, please speak to your Midwife or Health Visitor, or contact the Infant Feeding Team at the hospital. You will then be referred to further support and assessment.
If you baby is being referred for tongue tie division, you may find our FAQ page useful.
You can find our trust leaflet about tongue ties in babies here.
At the Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners (ATP) website, you can also find information on tongue tie, as well as how to contact a private Tongue Tie Practitioner in your local area should you wish to do so.