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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Treating tongue-tie

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. But there is no evidence that a tongue-tie release in a newborn pēpi (baby) will prevent later speech or dental problems.

Your lactation consultant can refer your pēpi to a doctor for a tongue-tie release.

Talk to your lactation consultant about what suits you best.

Tongue-tie release

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

Most pēpi show very little distress from the procedure but may be upset about being wrapped and held firmly. Your pēpi will be wrapped securely (swaddled) and held carefully so they do not wriggle while the procedure is being done. They will also be given a small amount of sucrose (sugar), which reduces pain in young pēpi.

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'll be encouraged to feed your pēpi. You may also be shown some changes you can make to how you breastfeed.

Most pēpi have a tongue-tie release before they're 2 months old. If your pēpi 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 pēpi is older, it's likely to take several days to a few weeks before you see the full effect.

If the feeding difficulties continue, there may be other problems affecting your baby's feeding and they may need further assessment. Your midwife, GP, Plunket nurse or lactation consultant 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. Last reviewed December 2021.


Page reference: 164377

Review key: HIBRF-24381