When babies are born and start to feed you might quickly notice how painful it is to breastfeed. Most of the time it is due to the baby not latching on correctly and one of the causes of a bad latch is being tongue-tied. Both my girls were tongue-tied babies, and luckily we found out very early on, although it was something overlooked by the NHS during the post-birth checks. It was actually our neighbour(a retired healthcare worker) who spotted it in our eldest and prompted us to seek further help. With our second, we knew what to look for ourselves so immediately sought further help once we had self-diagnosed her tongue-tie. Once treated it helped so much with getting a better latch and most of the pain associated with breastfeeding disappeared overnight.
Let’s look at what a tongue-tie is, how it happens, what it can cause, and what we can do if baby is tongue-tied.
What is a tongue-tie?
If your baby is tongue-tied it could look like this. Photo credit NHS
Being tongue-tied means a strip of skin is connecting the baby’s tongue to the bottom of their mouth making tongue movements very difficult. This is why breastfeeding becomes difficult for mothers with tongue-tied babies.
What are the symptoms resulting from tongue-tied babies?
- Painful latch
- Not gaining enough weight while feeding
- Seems to be hungry all the time
- Making a clicking sound while they feed
- Very sore nipples
- Low milk supply
Why does it happen?
Usually, it’s because the frenum didn’t move back down during development and is still attached to the tongue tip. When we got Maddy’s tongue tie removed, our consultant told us it could simply be a genetic thing. My partner, and also his father, are tongue-tied so in our case this definitely could be a contributing factor, but she also said that there isn’t enough research on it to be able to confirm that is the main reason.
What do we do if baby is tongue-tied?
If you or your baby has any of the symptoms above or looks tongue-tied, speak to your GP or midwife. They will be able to easily check your baby and arrange for an appointment with a paediatric doctor who will carry out a simple procedure on baby if necessary.
How does the procedure for tongue-tied babies work and what does it entail?
The procedure can be done by doctors, midwives or nurses. It is usually done with no anaesthetics if baby is very little. It doesn’t really hurt them, and in my experience(2 times), they let out a small cry which is quickly controlled with a feed. Breastfeeding also will help stop the bleeding much quicker. A general anaesthetic is only used in older babies who have already passed the teething stage. The procedure itself only takes a few seconds to do and there shouldn’t be much bleeding. In the days after you might notice a white patch where the cut was done which is totally normal.
It might take a few days for baby to get used to feeding again because although they can now latch on correctly, it is different for them and they aren’t quite sure how to do it. Your midwife or a breastfeeding expert can help if you feel that you need it.
Having a tongue tie can not only cause problems with feeding, but as the Mayo Clinic tells us, it can cause other problems with speech, such as difficulties making certain sounds like the letter T, D, S, TH etc…
It could cause poor oral hygiene, difficulty licking the lips, and restricted lip movement noticeable when kissing or playing a wind instrument. Tonguetie.net writes about other problems such as difficulties opening the mouth, migraines, pain in the jaw and more.
If you think your baby is tongue-tied, we recommend you speak with your midwife or GP as soon as possible.