The existence of a frenulum, or tongue tie, under the baby’s tongue is a normal thing, and about 10% of us have one. The vast majority of these are thin and stretchy and do not cause any problem with feeding, speech or anything else and should not regarded as an abnormality which needs to be corrected unless there is a definite problem. A small number of babies do have a frenulum which is causing problems with feeding – these are usually when the frenulum is:
- very prominent and close to or at the tip of the baby’s tongue
- very taut and therefore restricting the ability of the baby to move its tongue out
- small but the baby also has a short tongue, so even a small frenulum can then affect the baby’s ability to attach effectively
The problems which can be caused by a frenulum include:
- difficulty attaching to the breast
- frequently slipping off the breast
- very prolonged feeds (1hr or more, even when the milk supply is established)
- feeds very close together (within 1 hr of last feed)
- sore cracked nipples
- weight loss of over 10% in the baby or very slow regaining of weight
- dribbling lots of milk while feeding
- ‘clicking’ while feeding (drawing in a lot of air) and becoming unusually windy and distressed
If you think your baby is having difficulty with feeding, please make sure that you seek help with the positioning and attachment first!! This is the most likely source of the problem, and some skilled help and often very small adjustments can make a huge difference. Try reading ‘The Essential Guide to Feeding and Caring for your Baby’, especially pages 8-11, or look at the DVD clip from ‘Breastfeeding for mums, by mums’. Please remember that breastfeeding is a learned skill which takes time for you and your baby to perfect.
If, after help with positioning and attachment, you are still finding feeding difficult or painful and you, or the health professionals caring for you, believe that the problem is caused by a tongue tie, the baby can have the frenulum assessed by a midwife trained in the technique of dividing tongue ties which are causing problems. If you live in Cornwall, click here for further information about where to access help.