Tongue-Tie Tips

I often find myself tied up by parents with lots of questions about their child being tongue-tied.  Well let me see if I can stick out some information on this topic that will answer some of these questions.

Tongue-tie is what happens when the connection or band we call the frenulum, between the tongue and the floor of the mouth, is shorter than usual.  Tongue-tie is present at birth and often runs in families, occurring in up to 2% of babies.

To see if your baby has this problem, watch your baby try to stick out his or her tongue.  If the tongue can’t extend past the gum line or curls up with a heart shaped appearance at the tip, your baby probably has it.

The good news is that in most cases, the short band holding back the tongue either stretches or disappears in the first year of life and the problem goes away. 

If your baby is actually having trouble breastfeeding and not gaining weight as a result, then early treatment involves clipping of that band – a simple, relatively uncomplicated surgical procedure with a low risk of infection, and with low risk as well of a small amount of bleeding similar to that which might occur with ear piercing.  

If feeding is not a problem, but you do notice your child’s speech being hampered by the tongue-tie, then again, surgical treatment is warranted. 

Your pediatrician can help you evaluate whether to wait and allow tincture of time to take its course, or whether to do the procedure.

Hopefully you will latch on to tips like this (or your baby will latch on, with the tip of his or her tongue) when it comes to knowing a bit more about what to do or say if you think your child is tongue-tied.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at