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by Katie Hodgkins

Tongue Tie: A Guide

Most parents, particularly breastfeeding mums, will have come across the term ‘tongue tie’ at some point in their parenting journey.

If you are experiencing unforseen difficulties in your breastfeeding journey, such as baby struggling to latch, tongue tie may have been suggested to you. My son had a tongue tie and thanks to the great advice we were given, it was reversed within 12 hours of his birth and his latch was fab after that.

What exactly is a tongue tie, though? What impact can it have on how an infant feeds? What can be done about it? Luckily for us, the fabulous team at La Leche League have sent us some fantastic information, which we’re proud to share with you here.

What impact can tongue tie have on feeding?

Comfortable breastfeeding is important for all mothers and babies. But sometimes, breastfeeding can be more challenging than you hoped for – it might hurt and your baby may not be finding it easy to get all the milk they need.

While many breastfeeding challenges can be helped by adjusting how your baby is breastfeeding, sometimes your baby’s tongue may not be able to move as easily as needed to breastfeed comfortably and efficiently. It may be because they have a tongue tie which is making breastfeeding hard for them and painful for you. Breastfeeding challenges can also occur for other reasons and identifying the cause is important when deciding on appropriate solutions, so it’s always good to seek help early on if you are finding breastfeeding difficult or uncomfortable.

Tongue tie occurs when your baby’s tongue movement is restricted by the presence of a short, tight membrane (known as the lingual frenulum) which stretches from the underside of the tongue to the gum or the floor of their mouth. A baby needs to be able to move his tongue freely and extend it over the lower gum with his mouth open wide to be able to breastfeed well. Tongue tie affects tongue movement to varying degrees, and the shorter and tighter it is, the more likely it is to affect breastfeeding. Some babies with a tongue tie breastfeed well from the start, others do so when positioning and attachment are improved. But any tongue tie that restricts normal tongue movement can lead to breastfeeding difficulties.

For more information about how tongue tie can affect your baby when breastfeeding, click here.

Who is actually qualified to diagnose tongue tie?

If you are having difficulties breastfeeding, it is always good to find skilled breastfeeding support early on. With the right support, you and your baby may be able to move to a place where breastfeeding is going well for you. If not, then it’s good to explore if there is more going on.

Breastfeeding counsellors, such as La Leche League Leaders, can work with you on helping you and your baby to breastfeed in a way that is that is comfortable for you both and allows them to get milk effectively. Sometimes, small adjustments can make a huge difference. If you and your baby are still finding breastfeeding hard, an LLL Leader or other breastfeeding counsellor may suggest that you get your baby’s tongue assessed. This would need to be by someone who is trained to do a full oral assessment to assess your baby’s tongue function (it’s not just about what their tongue looks like). Leche League Leaders cannot diagnose a tongue tie, but they may suggest that further assessment would be a good option. Only a qualified tongue-tie practitioner can diagnose whether your baby has a tongue tie or not, and importantly whether having it treated will help with breastfeeding. 

To fully assess a baby’s tongue – and see whether or not there is an issue that is affecting breastfeeding, you need to seek support from a skilled professional who has training and expertise in tongue tie assessment. One place to find someone is with the Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners (ATP), although there are also other practitioners who may not be listed here. The ATP is also a good place to find out more about tongue tie and how it affects breastfeeding. 

Once you’ve seen a tongue tie practitioner, you will be able to decide if you feel that proceeding with having the tongue tie divided is the right option for you. You can talk it through with an LLL Leader, but as with all support LLLGB provides, only you can decide what is right for you and your baby. For some babies having a tongue tie revised makes a huge difference, but it often isn’t a magic fix. And any assessment or treatment of TT should always be alongside skilled breastfeeding support, so keep asking for support. LLL Leaders are there to support you at all stages. To find your nearest group and local Leader, visit the La Leche website here.

Thank you, La Leche!

Follow them on Facebook for more useful breastfeeding support.

We hope that this has been useful information – tell us your own tongue tie stories in the comments.

Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx

(Image credit to the NHS – read more on tongue tie here)

Katie Hodgkins Image
I'm Katie, and I'm a mama, wife, and freelance content creator for Bump, Baby & You. I also help to run our thriving online community over in our Facebook support group, as well as volunteering for my local branch of the National Childbirth Trust. I'm a busy bee and enjoy keeping active, cooking, writing, and fun days out with my little family. My special topics of interest are... autism (as me and my son are both autistic), science, all things parenting and pregnancy related, and The Handmaids Tale!
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