What is a tongue tie?
The frenulum is a piece of skin/tissue that attaches the underside of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. A tongue tie (also known as ankyloglossia) is where the frenulum is too short or too tight.
How common are tongue ties?
Tongue ties occur in about 1 in 20 babies.
What problems do tongue ties cause?
Most babies with a tongue tie will have no problems at all. They can feed perfectly well and maintain adequate weight gain. Some babies can have problems with breastfeeding and a few have difficulty bottle-feeding. Many parents worry that tongue ties will cause problems with speech later on in life but this is very rare.
Should my baby have his or her tongue tie treated?
If you are worried that a tongue tie might be affecting your baby’s feeding then you should see your midwife or health visitor for information and support. Most babies with a tongue tie do not need any treatment. Some tongue ties stretch over time and some are divided naturally by the baby while putting things in their mouth such as, toys or spoons. If you are experiencing problems with breastfeeding despite support around latch, pain or discomfort then dividing the tongue tie may help.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggest that there is evidence to support dividing tongue ties in babies who are having problems with breast feeding. There is no research suggesting that babies with tongue ties who are bottle feeding will benefit from the procedure. Dividing a tongue tie in a baby carries a small risk of a painful ulcer under the tongue and a very small risk of bleeding that would have to be treated with an operation under general anaesthetic. It would be wrong to put a baby through the discomfort and risks of a tongue tie division where there is no evidence it would be helpful and for this reason we do not divide tongue ties in babies who are bottle fed.
How do I get my baby an appointment to have his or her tongue tie treated?
In babies (up to 6 months of age) it is possible to divide the tongue tie in the outpatients clinic at Sheffield Children’s hospital. A referral to the hospital is made via your midwife, health visitor or GP.
Weaning baby on to food
Most babies with a tongue tie will wean on to food with no problems
If the problems persist ……..
If your baby is not gaining weight adequately, then please see your GP, as there could be an underlying medical problem. If there are no medical problems and your baby is not putting on weight because of the tongue tie then ask for another appointment to consider tongue tie division; this is, however extremely rare.
If you experience problems when weaning your baby on to solids then referral to a speech and language therapist may be beneficial. Likewise, if you are worried about your child’s speech in the future, referral to a speech and language therapist before dividing the tongue tie is recommended. This is because it is extremely rare for tongue ties to cause problems with speech and it is much more likely that there is a different cause of the speech problems.