Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) is a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion. The restriction is caused by a membrane (lingual frenulum) under the tongue being unusually short, thick or tight. There is also a membrane (labial frenulum) connecting the upper lip to the gums, which can cause a lip-tie depending on where it inserts into the gums.
Tongue and lip-ties can cause problems with breastfeeding:
- Problems latching onto the nipple. Instead of sucking baby may be chewing on nipple with gums.
- Difficulty creating or maintaining suction on the nipple.
- Poor transfer of milk.
- Digestive issues such as reflux.
- Poor weight gain.
- Nipple and breast pain.
Later in life tongue-ties may also lead to speech problems, crooked teeth, under/over development of the jaws leading to facial disharmony and a higher risk of dental cavities.
Diagnosing a tongue-tie involves more than merely noting the presence of a membrane beneath the tongue. There are four classifications of tongue-ties. And in fact in a Class 4 tongue-tie no membrane is visible beneath the tongue, yet this is the class most associated with breastfeeding issues. Although various classes of tongue-ties may be diagnosed, only the ones functionally interfering with breastfeeding need to be corrected immediately.