A tongue-tie is a fold of membrane that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Sometimes the membrane can be shorter than normal causing some restriction in the movement of the tongue.
Some tongue-ties are easy to see and others are less obvious. About half of babies with a tongue-tie have someone else in the family who also has one. It is more common in boys. Research done in Southampton shows that over 10% of babies are born with this.
Some medical experts say that having a tongue-tie will not affect the way your baby feeds, but we have found that a number of babies who have tongue-tie may find feeding more difficult (see our patient information sheet for more details).
If you have concerns about your baby's feeding or tongue-tie, you should speak to your midwife, feeding specialist, health visitor or GP.
For babies under 8 months old this is a simple procedure, which takes a few seconds and does not need an anaesthetic. We do not think the treatment hurts newborn babies, as it was shown in one study that a small number of babies slept through the procedure. Older babies and certainly those over the age of 9 months will need a general anaesthetic.
We take the baby to a quiet room nearby. Babies are wrapped tightly in a blanket to stop them wriggling. As soon as the tongue-tie has been snipped using sterile scissors - this takes about 2 seconds - pressure is applied with a piece of sterile gauze under the tongue for a few seconds. Usually there are only a few drops of blood. The blanket is then unwrapped and the baby is fed immediately, by either breast or bottle.
Following division, you may notice a small white blister under the tongue, which does not interfere with feeding.
For more information you can read our tongue-tie patient information.
The tongue-tie service at UHS is led by Mr Nigel Hall, consultant paediatric and neonatal surgeon, with Jayne Threlfall, midwife and lactation consultant.
Health professionals can find information on referring a baby for tongue-tie division here.