It seems the numbers of babies born with tongue-tie is on the rise, or are we just more aware of this condition now? If there was an issue years ago what normally happened was babies were given a bottle, but now mothers are being encouraged to breastfeed. But not every baby who has a tongue-tie needs it snipped, as there are different degrees of it, often it will only be treated if a mother has a problem with breastfeeding.

Waiting lists of up to six weeks can occur in many hospitals, by that time a lot of mothers may be too stressed to continue breast feeding and will have given up, as a tongue-tie newborn will not be able to latch onto the breast properly, resulting in severe pain and sometimes bleeding!

What is tongue-tie?

tongue tieTongue-tie occurs when the string of tissue under baby’s tongue, which attached to the floor of mouth, is too short. This means the tongue cannot move freely, making feeding more difficult, as baby cannot latch onto its mothers breast properly. Tongue-tie is not always easy to spot, it may not be found until baby displays feeding problems.

Signs and symptoms of Tongue Tie:

  • Excessive hunger
  • Difficulty opening mouth wide   when crying or yawning
  • The frenulum is joined to the tip of the tongue, which looks heart-shaped when the baby tries to extend their tongue
  • Infrequent swallowing
  • Baby tires easily when feeding, often a sleepy baby
  • Windy baby
  • Breastfed babies with tongue-tie may not be able to latch on properly
  • Bottle-fed babies can have difficulty in creating a good seal on the teat, which can result in ineffective sucking.
  • Possible noisy breathing
  • Gagging
  • Reflux
  • Can get a small blister on upper lip from sucking
  • Oral aversion
  • Baby is stressed and agitated during feeding or during the day due to be hungry
  • Tongue-tie can result in feeding difficulties for the baby but also squashed, sore damaged nipples for mum

What to do?

Tongue tie divisionIf tongue-tie is suspected contact the Health Visitor or midwife, as this condition can be missed as it is not always obvious. The tongue-tie can be cut (sometimes called ‘divided’) by someone trained to do the procedure. It is quick and simple, and young babies usually don’t need any pain relief. The procedure releases the tie, and allows the tongue to move more freely. A qualified midwife can carry out this procedure by the NHS or privately (qualified midwife).

The procedure takes a few seconds, and you can start feeding your baby immediately afterwards. Some babies sleep through it, while others cry for a few seconds. In small babies, being cuddled and fed is more important than painkillers.

There should be little blood loss, though some bleeding is likely. A white patch may form under the tongue, which takes 24 to 48 hours to heal, but doesn’t bother the baby.

See the NICE guidelines on Division of tongue tie for breastfeeding…….

Written by Karen Langston 17th January 2016




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