When it comes to tongue tie in babies it’s not an uncommon condition and is treatable, but it can have numerous effects on babies and breastfeeding mothers. In this blog, we lay out the research into the commonality of tongue tie in babies, signs to look out for either if you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, as well as what you can do to help your tongue tied baby.
What Is Tongue Tie In Babies?
Ankyloglossia, also known as tongue-tie in babies, occurs when the skin strip that attaches the tongue to the base of the mouth is shorter than average after a failure to separate before birth; causing a restriction to the tongue’s movement.
How Common Is Tongue Tie In Babies?
While the exact number of tongue tied babies is unknown, it’s highly regarded as a common condition amongst babies and is believed to affect up to 1 in 4 of newborns in the U.S.
As a result of limitations to the tongue’s mobility, studies have shown that a large number of babies having issues surrounding breastfeeding are also likely to have tongue-tie.
But not to worry - tongue tie is often caught and diagnosed right after your baby is born, either by a lactation consultant or paediatrician during infant health checks. However, if case tongue tie is not caught right away, speak with your doula or doctor if you’re concerned.
Signs Of Tongue Tie In Babies
Tongue Tie In Breastfeeding Babies
Successful breastfeeding requires your baby to latch onto the breast tissue and nipple, while also covering their lower gum with their tongue to protect the nipple from harm. Babies affected by tongue tie, however, are not able to open their mouths wide enough to latch on properly.
If your baby has tongue tie, they may exhibit these signs when breastfeeding:
- Difficulty attaching or staying attached
- Being unsettled and appearing hungry the majority of the time
- Making a clicking noise while they feed
- Feeding for a long period of time, taking a short break, and then feeding again
- Delayed weight gain
Tongue tie in babies can also impact the breastfeeding mother with issues such as:
- Low supply in milk
- Repeated breast inflammation - mastitis
- Sore/cracked nipples
Tongue Tie In Bottle Fed Babies
When it comes to bottle fed babies, the signs of tongue tie can be less apparent but are not unlike the signs for breastfed babies.
- Pushing the bottle teat away/out
- Delayed weight gain
- Difficulty feeding
- Long and frequent periods of feeding where they appear unsettled or unsatisfied
- Baby colic
How Can I Help My Baby With Tongue Tie?
Left untreated, it’s possible that your baby will not experience any problems as a result of tongue tie, with any tightness naturally resolving as their mouth continues to grow and develop.
In cases where your baby’s feeding is being impacted, tongue tie is treated with a frenotomy; a simple surgical procedure where the doctor examines the tongue attachment, also known as the lingual frenulum, before using sterile scissors to snip it free. If your baby is around 3-4 months, or younger, this procedure can be carried out with or without anaesthesia, either in the hospital nursery or doctor’s office.
Although not an uncommon condition, tongue tie in babies can impact their feeding if it goes untreated. However it is easily treatable and there are cases where natural growth and development fixes the issue naturally. If you feel your baby is having issues surrounding feeding, whether from a bottle or your breast, reach out to your health visitor, midwife or doctor.