10th Feb 2018

Tongue Tie

Through my work in the NHS I have come across many babies with tongue tie. In my work as someone who supports breastfeeding mothers, I feel this has the most impact on breastfeeding success in the first week of life. This affects 1 in 6 babies and appears as a stringy bit of skin or a thicker skin attachment from beneath the tongue which attaches to the base of the mouth.

It is often easy to spot the frontal tongue tie where the tongue appears folded in half and there is an attachment normally underneath the tip of the tongue. Sadly many babies slip through the net and the paediatric check performed on all newborns does not always reveal all tongue ties, particularly the posterior ones.

Often babies are not diagnosed until they are at least a few days old and by this time the parents could have had many problems to contend with including:

  • Baby struggling to remain attached at the breast.
  • Feelings of failure that they have had so many difficulties with feeding their baby.
  • Weight loss of over 10% in the first few days of life and a possible re-admission into hospital..
  • Giving up on breastfeeding because it is too difficult.
  • Baby also unable to cup feed (an alternative method of feeding a newborn)
  • Bottle feeding babies who can take almost an hour to drink a bottle and lose contact frequently with the teat..

I have also seen babies with severe tongue ties where there has been little or no impact on their ability to feed well.

Often tongue ties affect several members of the same family and I have visited  families where mum, baby and older sibling all have them. There are other factors such as possible problems with speech which mean that parents are faced with an almost immediate decision over whether to have the tie cut (frenulectomy) or not.

Some hospitals provide this service free of charge. Alternatively it may require a GP referral to another NHS hospital or parents can pay to have the procedure performed privately with a lactation consultant. Before any procedure is carried out there would be a full analysis of the movement of the tongue and other factors that would influence whether the procedure was necessary or not and then you can decide whether or not to consent to treatment.

For parents who decide against this option or who have to wait for the procedure the options for feeding their baby include:

  • Breastfeeding in a laid back position where mum is in a relaxed semi reclined position and baby is supported in one of her arms with baby in a vertical position, stretching up towards the breast..
  • Expressing milk or giving formula¬† and feeding it by bottle using a teat designed for tongue tied babies.

For support with breastfeeding or initial diagnosis of tongue tie please contact Baby Pink Baby Blue.

Blog by: Alison Baker