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May 25, 2018

We take a look at tongue & lip tie, and give you the facts 

Tongue tie is a controversial area of neonatal medicine where it's hard to find a consensus of opinion. What's certain is that awareness of the condition has increased along with the number of babies treated. Health Ministry figures show the number of tongue-tie releases performed in New Zealand increased from over 200 in 2007/8 to more than 1,200 in 2012/13 but that doesn't include the thousands of operations being done privately by everyone from oral surgeons to dentists and lactation consultants. 

So what is tongue tie?

Tongue tie is when the thin membrane (or frenulum) connecting the tongue to the base of the mouth is tight, like a rubber band, and limits movement of the tongue, stopping baby from getting a good latch. In lip tie, the membrane connecting the upper lip to the upper gum restricts movement, and baby is unable to open its mouth wide enough to get a proper latch.


  • Baby gets a reduced milk supply causing low weight gains 
  • Trouble latching (baby may become frustrated)
  • Baby is constantly hungry despite long, frequent attempts to feed
  • Sore nipples that feel chomped on
  • Cracked and glazed nipples beyond the first few days of feeding 
  • Thrush (damage caused by poor latc is a great place for thrush to settle 
  • Mastitis in the mother 
  • Baby makes a clicking noise or spills milk out of the side of its mouth
  • Baby is described as 'windy' or as having 'colic' 
  • Reflux 

How is it treated? 

With a snip of the offending frenulum, called a release, by a trained dentist, ENT, pediatrician of family doctor but make sure you do your research first and expect follow-up treatment. 

Where to seek help

If you suspect your baby might have a tongue or lip tie, seek expert help quickly. The following organisations are a good place to start: 

For more, take a look at our autumn issue, on sale now! 

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