Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is commonly found in 3-10 percent of babies, most often boys. Most health care providers do not check for this, so it is usually up to the parent to figure it out early on in the baby’s life and seek help accordingly.
Tongue-tie concerns begin with many breastfeeding mothers who report excruciating pain, cracked, bleeding, compressed nipples, and soreness while nursing their infant. These are usually signs of an incorrect latch, which can be caused by tongue-tie among other things. If you suspect tongue-tie, you should check your family history for any members with a tongue-tie, as this is hereditary.
Here are a few tips to try at home to assess if your baby is tongue-tied. Make sure your hands are clean prior to trying any of these exercises.
- Watch your baby’s mouth when he cries. Does the tongue reach the high corners of his or her mouth? This is known as tongue motion elevation.
- Trace your baby’s bottom gums with your finger. Does the tongue turn and follow your finger? This is known as tongue motion lateralization.
- Try to tickle your baby’s bottom lip with your finger or Q-tip. Does the tongue extend past the gums and the bottom lip? This is known as extension of tongue.
- Try gently lifting your baby’s tongue toward the roof of the mouth. Do you see or feel a membrane preventing it from going higher?
- Try gently lifting the upper lip toward the nose, can you see or feel a membrane that prevents you from being able to lift the lip?
While breastfeeding your baby:
- Check for correct latch. Is there breast milk flowing from the sides of the baby’s mouth?
- Do you feel like your baby is biting or chewing on your breast?
- Does your baby seem to fall off the breast only to cry and want to eat again?
- Do your nipples look compressed or blanched after a feeding?
- Does your baby reject your breast?
While bottle feeding your baby:
- Does milk drip from the side of the baby’s mouth?
- Does your baby swallow too much air while feeding, leading to gas?
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019
- Incorrect latching and sore nipples may be signs of tongue-tie.
- Tongue-tie is more common among boys.
- Check for latching issues, and pay attention to your nipples after a feeding.