Infant tongue tie surgery

Tongue tie procedure

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) supports tongue-tie division, considering it to be a safe procedure, and that it can improve breastfeeding for some mothers.

So if you are looking for a tongue-tie practitioner in the UK, the Association of Tongue-Tie Practitioners website provides a list.

A lot of breastfeeding mothers can feel daunted when they are waiting for a tongue-tie division for their baby. 

If that is you, please be assured that it is a simple procedure which doesn’t take long at all – just a second or two, and it involves cutting the frenulum which is a tight piece of skin that attaches the underside of the tongue to the bottom of your baby’s mouth.

If your baby is less than four months old, the procedure can be carried out without painkillers or anesthesia at all.

If your baby is over four months, then a general anesthetic would be needed for this procedure. That’s also true for children and adults.

When your baby has the tongue-tie released, the specialist will place a finger and thumb just underneath your baby’s tongue, which will enable a good view of that tight piece of skin, the frenulum.

A small pair of scissors is used to cut that area very quickly.

Baby asleep on their back

The procedure is swift, and you can bring your baby to the breast soon afterward. Some babies don’t even wake up during that procedure, but others might cry a little.

For your reassurance, you would expect to see a drop or two of blood at the incision site, but this is normal.

A white patch can develop under your baby’s tongue, which also is normal and usually takes up to 2 weeks to resolve.

Complications to this procedure are extremely rare, but if you feel that there is infection or bleeding, anything untoward, please seek out medical help.

While many babies can breastfeed well following the procedure almost instantly, some of you may find it could take one or two weeks for the feeding to improve.

If this is your experience, please don’t be discouraged. 

Your baby has suddenly found that he can do so much more with his tongue, and it may feel different to him.

Perseverance, patience, and attention to a good latch are still essential.

If, after a couple of weeks, you don’t see an improvement in your baby’s feeds, there may be other factors that are impacting the feeding, other than the tongue-tie. 

In rare circumstances, it may be necessary to see your tongue tie practitioner again.

It could be that tongue exercises are warranted and less likely that the tongue tie divide may not have been done extensively enough.

So to summarize, this procedure is quick, it’s often painless, and it can potentially help you and your baby to breastfeed better.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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