How tongue-tie can hamper breastfeeding

tongue-tieHaving a baby with a tongue-tie can cause difficulty for mothers as breastfeeding babies need to move their tongues with rolling movements to milk the breast correctly. Here’s what to look for and what to do.
What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie occurs when the thin piece of skin under the baby’s tongue (the lingual frenulum) is very short and restricts the movement of the tongue. The tongue is not free or mobile enough for the baby to attach properly to the breast.

Tongue-tie occurs in about 5% of people. It is three times more common in males than females and can run in families. Some babies with tongue-tie are able to attach to the breast and suck well. However, many have breastfeeding problems, leading to nipple damage in the mother and poor milk transfer and low weight gains in the baby.


Fast Facts about tongue-tie:
  • Tongue-tie occurs in about 5% of people
  • It is three times more common in males
  • It runs in families
  • It can cause difficulty with breastfeeding
  • It may lead to dental or speech problems later in life if not treated

When is a tongue-tie a problem for breastfeeding?

A baby needs to move his tongue up and down to milk the breast correctly. If the tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth, the baby is not able to milk the breast well. The baby may not be able to open his mouth wide enough to take in a full mouthful of breast tissue. This can result in ‘nipple-feeding’ because the nipple is not drawn far enough back in the baby’s mouth and constantly rubs against the baby’s hard palate as he feeds. As a result, the mother is likely to suffer nipple trauma.

Some of the signs that a baby’s tongue-tie is causing problems with breastfeeding:
  • nipple pain and damage
  • the nipple looks flattened after breastfeeding
  • you can see a compression/stripe mark on the nipple at the end of a breastfeed

Further information:

  • If you suspect your baby has a tongue-tie that is causing breastfeeding problems, you may wish to contact a lactation consultant or other experienced health professional. They will be able to assess your breastfeeding and check your baby’s tongue to see whether it needs to be released.
  • For more information, including treatment, visit:

Facts in this article sourced from the Australian Breastfeeding Association

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