What To Do If You Think Your Baby Has Tongue Tie

Having never even heard of tongue tie before C was born, I’m astounded at how many people are struggling with the effects of it.

Some might say it’s the latest ‘fad’ to diagnose tongue tie, but given the UK’s appalling breastfeeding success rate and the fact that the first response to feeding problems from health professionals seems to be to push babies onto formula (ironic given the focus on breast is best), it really isn’t surprising that many people never got as far as a diagnosis.

But this isn’t supposed to be a tongue tie rant. Instead I thought it worthwhile to share what I’ve learnt through our tongue tie journey and that of those I’ve spoken with in thEme way. Some is what I did, and some is what I would do next time, knowing what I know now.

Key for me is that the quicker tongue tie is identified and treated, the less impact it is likely to have on mum and baby alike.

So, if you think your baby might have tongue tie, what should you do?

1: Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Breastfeeding support groups, midwives and health visitors are great if you need some emotional support with breastfeeding or some pointers on technique, but anything beyond that will definitely benefit from a fully trained professional eye.

Your health visitor or children’s centre might be able to direct you to the most senior lactation consultant in your area, or you can find a local one on the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain website.

A lactation consultant can tell you if your baby does have tongue tie or not, and observe you feeding to identify any problems with technique etc. And once you’re seeing one you can use that fact to ward off any unwanted pressure from other well meaning healthcare professionals (see 3 below).

2: Swot Up

This is one occasion when consulting ‘Dr Google’ is highly recommended. Some starters include:

NCT overview of tongue tie

The Leaky Boob

3: Stand Your Ground

If you haven’t already noticed, let me let you into a little secret. Health care professionals don’t know the right answer. Go to three health care professionals with the same issue, and you’ll come back with (at least) 6 different answers.

It’s not that they’re trying to confuse you or don’t know their stuff, it’s just that there often isn’t a single right answer. And most of the health care professionals we see have quite a wide skillset, which means that whilst they have knowledge of lots of different potential problems you might face, they can’t possibly know individual subjects in great detail – hence why as above, if you’ve got a breastfeeding issue I would always go to a breastfeeding expert.

Don’t be pushed or bullied into doing anything that you don’t want to do – which includes formula top ups, timed feeding schedules, medications, early weaning, etc etc. Read up on your subject, keep the evidence to hand, and don’t be pushed around.

If your baby has tongue tie and you want it released, there’s a good chance you will have to push for it, so stand your ground here too. Get a referral as soon as you can. Matter tongue tie release babies have to relearn how to latch and feed. Time is of the essence and sadly referrals on the NHS take time, sometimes a long time as there are relatively few practitioners who release tongue ties despite it being a very simple procedure.

4: If you can, go private

Not everyone can do this, but going private can be a huge advantage in terms of getting tongue the dealt with quickly. We got an appointment the day after diagnosis!

The cost seems to be around £250. Call your local private hospital (eg Spire) and ask who performs tongue tie release or frenulectomy.

If you can, and if your or your partner’s work offer it, get your baby added to your private healthcare cover as soon as possible after baby is born. Many policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions so waiting until there’s a problem could be too late. Our BUPA policy covered our appointments and meant we didn’t have to wait.

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