Tongue-tie is when the piece of skin under a baby’s tongue is attached to the tongue. In most babies, this piece of skin separates from the front end of the tongue before they’re born.
A baby with tongue-tie might not be able to move her tongue freely.
Tongue-tie is a congenital condition. This means it’s something a baby is born with. We don’t know why tongue-tie happens in some babies, but it usually isn’t a serious problem.
Tongue-tie can run in families and is more common in boys.
Signs of tongue-tie
Here are some signs that your baby or child has tongue-tie:
- The tip of your baby’s tongue looks heart-shaped when his tongue sticks out.
- The tip of your baby’s tongue can’t reach the roof of her mouth or further than the edge of her lower lip.
- Your baby’s tongue can’t move sideways.
If you’re breastfeeding and your baby has tongue-tie, you might notice that:
- your baby has trouble attaching or staying attached to your breast
- your baby makes a clicking sound when feeding
- your nipples look squashed after feeding and might be sore or damaged.
Does your child need to see a doctor about tongue-tie?
You should take your child to the GP if you notice any of the signs above or if you’re concerned about tongue-tie. If you’re having trouble with breastfeeding, it’s a very good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse or a lactation consultant. These health professionals will check your baby for tongue-tie.
You might see a speech pathologist if you notice problems with your child’s speech. Although it isn’t clear whether tongue-tie can affect speech development, a speech pathologist might check for signs of tongue-tie.
Treatment for tongue-tie
Tongue-tie usually doesn’t need treatment.
For many children, the piece of skin loosens itself as they get older.
But sometimes tongue-tie doesn’t go away and might affect breastfeeding. In this situation, your child can have a procedure called a frenectomy.
A frenectomy involves cutting the fold of skin with scissors or a laser. For a newborn baby, this procedure is often done without anaesthetic. Your baby can usually feed immediately after the procedure.
If your baby is more than a few months old, doctors will usually use a general anaesthetic to do a frenectomy.
Your health professional can help you decide whether your baby needs a frenectomy and which approach is best for your child. Only an experienced health professional should do a frenectomy.