A tongue tie (also known as ankyloglossia) consists of a piece of tissue (called a frenulum) which bridges the gap between the underside of the tongue and the floor of the mouth. The frenulum may be attached near the tip of the tongue, or may be joined a little further back. If a frenulum is tight it may tether the tongue and restrict its movement.
Some babies with tongue tie can breastfeed well, others have difficulty with breastfeeding, and a few have difficulty with bottle feeding.
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 for their mother. Therefore, if difficulties persist, after a thorough feeding assessment, dividing (sometimes referred to as releasing, clipping or snipping) the tongue tie and allowing increased tongue movement will assist the baby to attach effectively to the breast.
Some bottle feeding babies, who have a tongue tie, may also have difficulty feeding, as they have problems forming a good seal around the teat. This results in an inefficient suck and feeds may take 2-3 times as long as an efficient baby. Also as the seal is leaky, some may dribble milk, sometimes requiring a change of clothes. They may also suffer from more wind, colic and irritability.
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 Advisors at the L&D. Then you will be referred to appropriate local services for support and advice.
Further information is available from the Baby Friendly website www.babyfriendly.org.uk
At www.tongue-tie.org.uk you can also find information on tongue tie, as well as how to contact a private Lactation Consultant in your local area should you wish to do so.