Tongue Tie: More than “Just” a Breastfeeding Problem


Tongue-tied newborn

Tongue-tied newborn

Let’s assume for a moment that breastfeeding is not important. That the oral development that breastfeeding provides is inconsequential. We will ignore, for just a moment, the fact that the act of breastfeeding helps develop the baby’s jaw, his facial muscles and properly shapes the palate to make room for his future teeth. We’ll ignore all of that so that I can give you a few other reasons to agree to have your baby’s frenulum clipped. Just in case the possibility of pain free, effective breastfeeding is not a good enough reason for you.

The reason I’m being just a bit sarcastic is because there are plenty of health care professionals out there who do not “believe in” freeing a tongue tied baby’s tongue “just” so he can breastfeed. “After all,” they say, “ can just feed your baby pumped milk or formula from a bottle.”

Let’s say you are pondering that question yourself. And you don’t want to put your baby through even a second of pain—however minor—if you don’t have to. And, up until the moment your lactation consultant told you your baby is tongue tied, you’d never heard of such a thing. Why should your baby have a frenotomy (clipping the frenulum) when it’s only going to help with breastfeeding and breastfeeding is such a short time in your baby’s life? I’ll tell you why. Because freeing the tongue with a quick clip now may help your baby avoid health problems in childhood and even into adulthood.

The tongue is a very strong muscle and that frenulum is an inelastic cord that is constantly pulling on the floor of the mouth and/or the lower gum ridge (called the alveolar ridge) when the tongue tries to move normally. Without normal tongue movements the oral cavity does not develop properly and since one body part is connected to the other, problems can occur in the rest of the body as well. Here are some effects of tongue tie that are not breastfeeding related.

  • Ineffective oral hygiene
  • Tooth decay
  • Crowding of teeth—especially lower teeth
  • Orthodontia
  • Lisps and other speech impairments
  • Excess saliva production–frenulum pulls salivary glans to unnatural position.
  • Fatigue with speaking
  • Shame, embarrassment with speaking
  • High, arched or “bubble” palate
  • Choking
  • Reflux
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Headaches

So now you know. If your baby is tongue tied and you have been wondering if a frenotomy is “just” for breastfeeding, wonder no more. Your baby will thank you some day!

See also, “My Baby is Tongue Tied?”

6 thoughts on “Tongue Tie: More than “Just” a Breastfeeding Problem

  1. My 15 months old had a slight tounge tie at birth but nothing was done as I had such an over supply she still got more than enough milk. However, at 5 months she stopped sleeping despite everything. She has since been diagnosed with sleep apnea and had her adenoids removed and grommets. She still doesn’t sleep. She is sick all the time. Do you think it is worth trying to get someone to look at her tounge tie now? She has been to a lot of doctors and had sleep studies and to many lactation consultants and nurses. I just want a healthy baby who sleeps not than an hour so would try anything!

  2. I am currently looking for literature on the link of tongue tie and sleep apnoea, I was hoping you may know of some evidence based research. I hope to study in the area of breastfeeding specifically interested in tongue tie as a midwife and a mother of children with ties. Thank you for your time. Rebecca Smith

  3. Pingback: Squeaker: A Story about a Tongue Tie Release | The Second 9 Months

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