A tongue frenulum is an extra piece of skin that goes from underneath the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Sometimes it is attached all the way to the tip of the tongue and sometimes only the portion just in front of the base of the tongue. Most tongue frenulums are very thin and look like a membrane, a few are thicker and look similar to the rest of the floor of the mouth. A tongue frenulum becomes a tongue tie when it affects the function of the tongue and causes symptoms (as described below). Research shows that up to 10% of babies have a tongue frenulum but just less than half of these babies have some difficulty with feeding depending on how restrictive the frenulum is and how it impacts on the function of the tongue. About half of the babies with a tongue-tie have someone else in the family who also has a tongue tie.
How will this affect my baby?
- Difficulty latching on to the breast and/or maintaining latch
- Feeding for a long time, having only a short break, then feeding for a long time again
- Baby is unsettled, appearing hungry most of the time
- Baby falls asleep at the breast
- Weight gain may be poor
- Baby becoming frustrated at the breast
- Feeds take a long time
- Some babies can take only a small amount of milk at each feed
- Baby may dribble a lot
- Changing the bottle teat does not usually seem to help
- Difficulty keeping soother in mouth
Symptoms Of Aerophagia
- Baby very unsettled after feeds
Solids And Weaning
- Difficulty in moving a bolus of food to back of mouth
- Pushing food forward out of the mouth
- Difficulty with textures and lumps
Download our Tongue Tie Parent Presentation
Some mothers and babies have only one of these problems, others may have several
- Sore or damaged nipples
- Severe pain on latch
- Nipple distortion (lipstick-shaped) or blanching
- Lack of milk
- Mastitis, often occurring more than once
There is no way of predicting which babies who have a tongue tie will have speech problems. Most children with speech problems have a difficulty with understanding and processing language rather than the mechanical problem which tongue tie can cause. The effect of a tongue tie could be a lisp or a reduced speed or volume of speech.
Some dentists state that they see more dental decay in people who have a tongue tie. For some it can be difficult to reach to the back of the mouth with the tongue to remove pieces of food from between the teeth, thus interfering with mouth hygiene.
Other Aspects To Consider
Some people believe that it is important for children to be able to poke their tongue out and lick ice-creams! Once children reach the teenage years they may also become self conscious over the appearance of a tie.
Download our Tongue Tie Information Leaflet
For answers to common questions please click here.