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Tongue Tie

Everything you need to know about identifying tongue tie in your baby or toddler and the best way to diagnose and treat it in Brisbane.

Symptoms of tongue tie

Tongue tie can affect your baby’s ability to breastfeed properly and in severe cases it can even effect their ability to bottle feed.  Many baby’s with a tongue tie breast feed successfully without any issues but for some it can lead to difficulties for both mother and child. The effects of the condition can carry onto into the toddler years and beyond.

You should seek specialist help regarding diagnosing tongue tie if you experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Breastfeeding problems such as poor milk supply, recurring mastitis and sore nipples during and after feeding.
  • Your nipples are squashed instead of elongated or have a white compression mark on them after feeding.
  • Poor weight gain or failure to thrive in your breast fed baby.
  • Your baby has difficulty latching to your breast or loses suction while feeding. This can lead to problems with excessive wind due to swallowing air while feeding resulting in an unsettled baby.
  • Your baby makes a clicking sound while breastfeeding.
  • Difficulty transitioning to solids and eating age appropriate foods. Severe tongue tie can make it impossible for an affected child to lick an ice-cream.
  • Dental health can be affected as the limited movement of the tongue makes it difficult to sweep food debris from the mouth and spread saliva.

Many children grow out of it by the age of 2 or 3 but if it persists it can lead to problems with speech.  This can make it difficult for them to pronounce sounds such as t, d, n, l, r, s and z that require the tongue or tip of the tongue to produce.

What is tongue tie?

cartoon toddler tongue tied

Tongue tie occurs when the string of tissue under the tongue, called the frenulum, is shorter and tighter than normal which restricts the movement of the tongue.  In some cases of tongue tie the frenulum fails to move back down from the tip of the tongue while still in the womb and is still attached to the tip when a baby is born leading to a heart shaped tongue.

The frenulum can loosen without treatment by the age of 2 to 3 allowing for normal speech and eating development.

Who to see if you suspect your baby or toddler has tongue tie

Diagnosing a tongue tie in a newborn baby can be difficult.  If you suspect this is the problem or suffer from any of the above symptoms it’s important to seek out a lactation consultant or paediatrician who specialises in diagnosing tongue ties.

Treatment for a tongue tie involves snipping or lasering the tight frenulum under the tongue allowing the tongue to move freely and normally – this procedure is called a lingual frenotomy.  In babies and toddlers this is usually done using either a local or no anaesthetic and is a fast, simple procedure with very little risk of any complications.  Breast fed babies can be fed straight after the frenulum has been snipped.  Older children may require a general anaesthetic and stiches may be needed as the procedure is more complicated and termed a frenectomy.  Some older children also require speech therapy after a frenectomy.

To cut or not to cut?

Many medical professionals today adopt a watch and wait approach to tongue ties.  However, if you are concerned that a tongue tie is affecting your breastfeeding relationship with your baby or the ability of your toddler to eat and speak, don’t delay in seeking help or getting a second opinion.

Whilst many children grow out of their tongue tie and experience no ill effects, an untreated tongue tie can affect breastfeeding, eating, digestion, teeth, speech, self-confidence and social skills so it’s important to see a health professional who specialises in diagnosing and treating tongue ties.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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