Tongue tied babies. Is it just a breastfeeding issue?

I was speaking to a friend of mine whose baby just had her tongue tie snipped at 9 weeks old, she was asking me some questions about the aftercare and sharing her feelings. I remember being in this position what feels like a long time ago, it isn’t really. Alma had her tongue tie divided about 15 months ago. The memories are still fresh, and I remember walking into the room and talking to a lovely lady called Deborah who explained to me what is going to happen and how it’s going to affect my child’s life. Yes, we are talking life. Just bear with me, I will explain.

According to NHS website “Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is where the strip of skin connecting the baby’s tongue to the floor of their mouth is shorter than usual” and affects around 4-11 % of newborn babies (NHS, 2017). I am not convinced about this statistics, to be honest, because to me it seems these are the cases that were officially noticed and treated by NHS staff. The amount of cases that goes unnoticed is probably a lot higher. Unfortunately due to financial cuts that NHS midwives are no longer trained to recognise a tongue tie and if it is suspected a waiting list can be very long.

A tongue ties restricts baby’s tongue mobility and makes it difficult for them to extract milk from their mothers breast. It also means that a mother can be uncomfortable while breastfeeding, or quite frankly in a lot of pain. As soon as Alma was born I knew something wasn’t right. Feeding your baby should not be painful, a little discomfort is to be expected let’s face it we don’t usually have our nipples in other people’s mouths, ok, ok, maybe sometimes for other reasons, but pain is an indicator that something is wrong. Now can you imagine having to wait 5 weeks to be seen about it? Five weeks of painful feeding and a baby that doesn’t have enough milk to satisfy their appetite, screaming babies, babies that constantly want to feed because they are hungry. A lot of mums give up, a lot of mums think that they don’t have enough milk to feed their babies or that their milk is not good enough, and it is hardly surprising. But of course it isn’t true. A mother would produce enough milk for her baby if the baby can efficiently extract milk. We all remember demand/supply law, and that the breast milk is the best source of nutrition, has antibodies, and is balanced exactly in the way that particular baby needs. So if there is something preventing a baby from extracting enough milk the whole demand/supply can be thrown out of the window.

Now ok, we live in the era of technological advances and the whole breastfeeding thing isn’t really a question of necessity but more of a personal choice. I believe that every woman needs to be supported in her decision to breastfeed, and supported not by words but actions, as it takes a while to establish supply, figure out how to do it, honestly it’s a skill that needs to be learned. I didn’t breastfeed my first pass 2 weeks, and it was an awful experience, so when my second was born I didn’t know which way to hold her so she can latch on. But also I believe that a woman decides how to feed her child, because it’s her child and because it’s her body, and it’s nobody else’s business. This is when the tongue tie issue comes for reasons other than breastfeeding. Restricted tongue movement can impact child’s ability to chew solid food, cause chocking and vomiting, dental problems and rarely speech development problems (Klockars, Pitkaranta, 2009). It is believed that undivided tongue tie can cause neck aches, problems with posture, painful jaws, migraines and various other issues in children and adults (IBCLC, 2011). It can also affect bottle feeding, cause additional wind and spitting of the milk, because of additional air that is swallowed while feeding. So if you suspect that your baby has a tongue tie it is worth persevering in getting diagnosis and division if reccomendeded by professionals despite your choice of feeding method.


IBCLC, C. (2011). The hidden cause of feeding problems (however you feed your baby). Accessed on May 18, 2018

Klockars, T. & Pitkaranta, A. (2009). Peadiatric tongue-tie division: Indications, techniques and patient satisfaction. International Journal of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology. Volume 73, Issue 10 (pp. 1399-1401)

NHS choice (2017). Tongue tie. Accessed on May 19, 2018

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