What is Tongue Tie?

Tongue Tie also known as Ankloglossia affects 4-11% of babies although I have found it is becoming more common.  It is usually identified when you have your new born checks after birth, however it can be easily missed and can be found later.

Tongue Tie is when the front of the tongue is attached to the floor of the mouth.  It is usually quite tightly and securely fastened by the tongue lingual Frenullum (short fraenulum) which causes a restriction which can affect the tongues movement.

Tongue tie is often identified by a different shape to the tongue.  The tongue takes on a strange shape at the front but then looks more like a normal tongue at the back; but in mild ties you may see the lingual frenulum appears short.

The tongue like any muscle can become tight, the tongue is composed of many small muscles – the main one which affects tongue tie is genioglossus which attaches from the lower jaw bone to our tongue, and is the main muscle which allows us to stick our tongue out. When this becomes tight, like any other muscle, it makes it harder for the muscle to perform it’s function, and so it can be difficult for a baby to feed. Babies may also become more tired during feeds as it becomes more of an effort for them to use this muscle.


What does our tongue do?  

Our tongue has many uses including

  • Talk
  • Suckling
  • Chewing
  • Swallowing
  • Eating
  • A very important element is to help us breathe

What Symptoms can it give?

  • Clicking during feeding
  • Not gaining weight
  • Baby is finding it difficult to feed and look like they are struggling
  • It can be painful for mothers during breast feeding and can give cracked nipples
  • Speech issues later as they develop
  • It makes it hard to lick, as though they’re eating an ice cream as they have restricted movement in sticking their tongue out


What can be done about it?

There are numerous ways to help your baby if you think they have tongue tie.  Firstly a simple examination can be done to assess their tongue movement to see if your baby can:

  • Stick their tongue out
  • Can they lift their tongue?
  • When they cry they should be able to lift their tongue up but with tongue tie this is not always the case as they struggle to move their tongue to the top of their mouth.


How do we test for tongue tie?

An examination that is used regularly is to place a finger in the baby’s mouth to see if the baby can suckle on a practitioner’s finger and is able to follow a finger with their tongue when going from side to side along their gums.

If the tongue tie is severe it will need a medical procedure which involves the lingual frenulum to be released which is the favoured surgery to be performed for babies under 1 years old.

Although we as osteopaths cannot detach/release the tongue I have found cranial osteopathy can help, like any muscle it attaches to bones, in this case to the cranium, throat and neck, we can help by stretching the muscles, working through the cranial bones themselves and help their mobility.

Cranial is a very gentle treatment approach and can help babies especially whom have had traumatic births with forceps,  ventouse, breach or unusual births however saying that all births can be difficult for both mother and baby. During birth a huge amount pressure can be placed upon a babies’ head and if problems occur this can alter how the cranial bones form as well as putting unwanted tension through a baby’s body altering how they can open their mouths and altering how they function so we work through muscles, bones, membranes all to enable babies to function easier, feed easier and become more happier within themselves.

However, if your baby does have severe tongue tie and needs the procedure osteopathy can help before and after the procedure, to help the body to adapt and understand the changes which have happened as both mum and baby will need to learn how to feed again.

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