14 June 2019
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The tongue may appear blunt or forked or have a heart shaped appearance and may lead to breast feeding or bottle feeding difficulties.
Tongue tie is caused by a tight or short membrane under the tongue. The tongue tip may appear blunt or forked or have a heart shaped appearance. This may lead to breast feeding or bottle feeding difficulties. Tongue tie is a birth defect that affects 3-10% of new-born babies (1) but not all babies with tongue tie require an intervention.
Treating tongue tie early can aid breast feeding. Breast milk is reported to be the healthiest way to feed your baby, with benefits including longer protection and the breast milk adapting to meet your baby’s changing needs. Choosing to breast feed your new-born baby may be an easy decision, but sometimes breast feeding isn’t as easy as it seems.
For the mother it can lead to sore, damaged or bruised nipples and feeding can be painful and due to poor drainage. Mothers can develop mastitis, infection, congestion and reduced milk supply which can lead to more frequent feeds.
For the baby the restricted tongue movements mean they receive less milk and colic, wind and flatulence may be caused by excessive air swallowing.
Tongue ties can be treated with a procedure called frenulotomy where a medical assessment by a paediatric surgeon will be required and is a good opportunity for the parents to discuss other health concerns and feeding issues about their baby.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
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A simple surgical technique is used to treat the tongue tie as an out-patient procedure. The frenulum is divided under aseptic conditions and with no anaesthetic or stitching required after the procedure. Your baby can be put to the breast immediately after the operation. Not all babies with tongue tie need an operation, as they can be supported by a lactation counsellor or an infant feeding specialist to get their feeding positioning correct.
If this does not work then infant and mother should benefit by having the tongue tie divided.
Your baby can be put to the breast immediately after the operation.
Tongue tie division is a generally safe and effective procedure which helps to protect and support breast feeding. However as with all surgical procedures there are some possible complications which include bleeding, infection and ulcer formation. Very rarely some babies require re-snipping.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.