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HealthInfo Canterbury

How is tongue-tie treated?

If your breastfeeding assessment suggests your baby's tongue tie is causing problems, they can have a tongue-tie release, (also called a tongue-tie snip, a division of the frenulum, or a frenotomy). This may make it easier to breastfeed. However, there is no evidence that a tongue-tie release in a newborn baby will prevent later speech or dental problems.

Your lactation consultant can refer your baby to a doctor for a tongue-tie release. This can happen through the public health system, or you can pay to have it done privately.

Talk to your lactation consultant about what suits you best.

Tongue-tie release

breastfeeding babyA tongue-tie release is a quick and simple procedure. However, your baby must have had vitamin K beforehand. If they have not had vitamin K, the release will not be done.

Most babies show very little distress, but may be upset about being wrapped and held firmly. Your baby will be wrapped securely (swaddled) and held carefully so they don't wriggle while it is being done. They will also be given a small amount of sucrose (sugar), which reduces pain in young babies.

A doctor will then lift your baby's tongue and cut their frenulum with a pair of sterile scissors. There should be very little bleeding.

Immediately after the release you will be encouraged to feed your baby. You may also be shown some changes you can make to how you breastfeed.

Most babies have a tongue-tie release before they are 2 months old. If your baby is older, or has a more complicated tongue-tie, they may need to be treated under general anaesthetic by a surgeon.

What to expect after the release

Some mothers notice a difference straight away after the release, while others need more time to relearn breastfeeding with their baby's more mobile tongue. Some mothers say it makes no difference.

If your baby is older, it is likely to take several days to a few weeks before you see the full effect.

If the feeding difficulties continue it may be that there are other problems affecting your baby's feeding and they may need further assessment. Your midwife, GP, practice nurse, or Plunket nurse will follow up to see if there are still any problems and, if so, what can be done about them.

Written by Canterbury lactation consultants and neonatologist. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. January 2017.

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Review key: HIBRF-24381