What To Do When Baby Won't Latch After Tongue Tie Release

Written by: Megan Stander


Time to Read: 10 min

Breastfeeding is a vital aspect of early parenthood, but it can come with unique challenges, particularly after a baby undergoes a tongue-tie release. This guide aims to provide essential insights and support for new mothers facing difficulties in breastfeeding post-tongue-tie release. Let's explore the nature of tongue-tie, its impact on breastfeeding, and how to effectively overcome these hurdles.


Here, we delve into the nuances of breastfeeding and what you can do if you're a parent and your baby won't latch after tongue tie release. In this comprehensive guide, you'll discover:

  • Understanding Tongue-Tie: We'll explain what tongue-tie is and how it can affect your breastfeeding experience.


  • Overcoming Challenges: Get practical advice for navigating breastfeeding challenges after a tongue-tie release.


  • Support and Guidance: Learn about the community and expert resources available for new mothers.

Breastfeeding post-tongue-tie release brings unique challenges, but with the right knowledge and support, you can navigate this journey confidently.

What is a Tongue-Tie?

Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where the tongue's movement is limited by a short, tight band of tissue connecting it to the floor of the mouth. This condition can significantly affect a newborn's ability to move their tongue effectively, impacting various aspects of their early development, particularly feeding.

  • Defining Tongue-Tie: This condition is relatively common and varies in severity. It is important to understand how it affects a child's oral development and the potential need for intervention.


  • Impact on Oral Movements: Babies with tongue-tie may have difficulties with sucking and swallowing, which are essential for feeding and speech development. Understanding these limitations is key in addressing any potential challenges early on.


  • Breastfeeding and Health Implications: The condition can lead to problems in breastfeeding, such as poor latch, inadequate nutrition for the baby, and pain or discomfort for the mother. These issues highlight the need for early diagnosis and possible treatment.

How Does Tongue-Tie Cause Breastfeeding Problems?

Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, restricts a baby's tongue movement, making it challenging to achieve a proper latch during breastfeeding. This limitation can lead to ineffective milk extraction, inadequate infant nutrition, and potential growth issues.


The Breastfeeding Link: Tongue-tie restricts the tongue's movement, leading to poor latch and ineffective breastfeeding, causing nutritional issues for the baby and decreased milk production for the mother, often resulting in stress and emotional challenges.


Recognizing the Signs: Key indicators of tongue-tie include prolonged feedings, maternal nipple pain, baby's insufficient weight gain, fussiness, and a clicking sound during feeding, all warranting professional healthcare consultation.


What Experts Say: Addressing tongue-tie often involves pediatric assessments and possibly a frenotomy. Lactation consultants are crucial in helping mothers and babies adapt to new breastfeeding techniques post-intervention, enhancing overall breastfeeding success.

Baby with Tongue Tie - What To Do When Baby Won

The Process of Tongue-Tie Release

Tongue-tie release, a pivotal step for many infants struggling with breastfeeding, involves minor surgical procedures aimed at freeing restricted tongue movement. This intervention, typically quick and straightforward, can be a game-changer in a baby's ability to breastfeed effectively and comfortably.


Frenotomy is a quick snip of the frenulum, typically without anesthesia, offering fast recovery, while frenuloplasty, suited for severe cases, involves suturing with a slightly longer recovery. Both procedures enhance tongue mobility for better breastfeeding.


Many infants show immediate improvements in latch and feeding post-procedure, leading to efficient milk transfer and reduced discomfort for the mother. However, some may need ongoing support due to persistent challenges.


Breastfeeding Post Tongue-Tie Release

Post-surgery, mothers and babies often need to learn new breastfeeding techniques. Lactation consultants provide crucial support in this adjustment phase, helping to establish effective and comfortable feeding practices.

Understanding Latch Difficulties Post-Tongue-Tie Release

Following a tongue-tie release, it's common for babies to require some time to adjust and improve their feeding. Full improvement can take 2-4 weeks, sometimes longer, and ongoing support is often necessary, especially in the first 2-3 weeks​​. Here are some key factors to consider:

Post-Surgery Physical Reactions

  • Swallowed Blood 

    Babies may swallow blood during the procedure, leading to red or brown vomit or black streaks in stools in the first 24 hours​​.


  • Bleeding Risks

    If the surgical site is disturbed, it might bleed lightly, usually stopping within a few minutes when the baby feeds or sucks on a finger or dummy. In cases of heavier or prolonged bleeding, immediate medical attention is required​​.

Feeding Challenges Baby Tongue Tie - What To Do When Baby Won

Feeding Challenges

  • Low Tongue Tone and Feeding Difficulty

    In the first 24-72 hours post-surgery, some babies may struggle with latching and feeding due to low tongue tone. During this period, feeding expressed milk through alternative means like a syringe or bottle might be easier. Skin-to-skin contact is beneficial to calm the baby and encourage latching​​.


  • Muscle Fatigue

    Some babies experience an initial improvement in latch and feeding, followed by deterioration after 5-10 days. This can be attributed to muscle fatigue but usually resolves with continued feeding​​.


  • Changes in Feeding Patterns

    Babies might become less efficient in feeding right after the surgery, leading to shorter and more frequent feeds. Breast compression can be helpful in these cases​​.


  • Clicking Sounds

    Post-surgery, some babies might make a clicking sound during feeds. This occurs when they struggle to maintain their tongue in a forward position, causing the tongue to slip back and break the feeding seal. It can take several weeks for babies to learn to manage the flow effectively after the division​​.

Baby wound healing - What To Do When Baby Won

Wound Healing and Pain Management

  • Wound Healing: The wound under the tongue may turn white, resembling a large mouth ulcer, and is expected to heal within a week. Observing for signs of infection, like weepiness or high temperature, is crucial​​.


  • Managing Pain and Discomfort: Regular breastfeeding can provide pain relief due to endorphins in breast milk. Some babies may be unsettled and appear in pain, and in these cases, consulting a pediatrician for appropriate pain relief is recommended. Skin-to-skin contact and carrying the baby can be soothing​​.

Next Steps: When Your Baby Won't Latch After Tongue Tie Release

After a tongue-tie release, if your baby still faces latching difficulties, it's essential to adopt a multifaceted approach that combines professional guidance, healing strategies, and supportive techniques to improve breastfeeding success.

Professional Guidance: The Cornerstone of Success

Professional assistance from lactation consultants and pediatricians is vital. They provide bespoke advice and can detect additional issues affecting feeding, ensuring comprehensive care for your baby.

  • Personalized Feeding Strategies: Development of tailored breastfeeding techniques to address individual challenges.


  • Detection of Secondary Issues: Identification of any other oral or feeding issues that may affect breastfeeding.


  • Continuous Support and Adjustment: Ongoing guidance and modification of strategies as needed based on the baby's progress and the mother's comfort.

Healing and Comfort for baby - What To Do When Baby Won

Promoting Healing and Comfort

Comfortable healing post-surgery is crucial. Oral exercises and massages aid in recovery, while discussing safe pain relief options with your pediatrician ensures a smoother feeding experience.

  • Gentle Oral Care: Emphasise the importance of gentle care around the surgery area to prevent irritation.


  • Routine Check-ups: Regular post-surgery check-ups to ensure proper healing and address any complications early.


  • Calming Techniques: Incorporation of calming techniques like soft singing or gentle rocking during feeds to soothe the baby.

Experimenting with Feeding Techniques

Trying various breastfeeding positions and paced bottle feeding can significantly enhance the breastfeeding experience, adapting to your baby's needs.

  • Laid-back Breastfeeding: Encouraging a more relaxed, reclined position that can aid in a natural latch.


  • Switch Nursing: Alternating breasts during a single feeding to keep the baby engaged and sucking effectively.


  • Side-Lying Position: Trying feeding while lying on the side can be more comfortable for both mother and baby.

Creating a Supportive Feeding Environment

A calm atmosphere and increased skin-to-skin contact play a significant role in enhancing the feeding experience and promoting relaxation and bonding.

  • Minimizing Distractions

    Keeping the feeding area quiet and free from loud noises or interruptions.


  • Comfortable Seating

    Ensuring a comfortable chair or cushioning for the mother, reducing physical strain during feeds.


  • Warm and Welcoming Ambiance 

    Using soft lighting or soothing music to create a peaceful environment for both mother and baby.

Monitoring Growth and Being Flexible

Regularly tracking your baby's growth and being open to alternative feeding methods are crucial for ensuring your baby’s nutritional needs are met.

  • Regular Weight Checks

    Frequent weight measurements to ensure the baby is gaining weight appropriately.

  • Developmental Milestone Tracking: 

    Observing and recording developmental milestones to assess overall health and growth.


  • Nutritional Assessments: 

    Consult with healthcare professionals for nutritional evaluations, especially when considering alternative feeding methods.

Enhanced Techniques and Alternative Therapies

Incorporating feeding exercises for tongue mobility, such as finger sucking and 'O' ball play, along with regular tummy time and possibly craniosacral therapy, can aid in easing breastfeeding difficulties.

  • Progressive Feeding Exercises: Gradually increasing the complexity of exercises to improve tongue strength and coordination.


  • Integration of Sensory Activities: Incorporating sensory-rich activities that can stimulate oral awareness and development.


  • Referral to Specialists: Consulting with occupational therapists or speech-language pathologists for specialized therapy in complex cases.

finger feeding and supplemental nursing systems for baby - What To Do When Baby Won

Utilizing Supplementary Tools and Seeking Specialised Support

Using tools like finger feeding and supplemental nursing systems, along with regular skin-to-skin contact and consulting an IBCLC, can provide the necessary support for effective breastfeeding.

  • Exploring Different Types of Nipple Shields: 

    Assessing various shield designs to enhance latch and comfort.


  • Guided Finger Feeding Sessions: 

    Using finger feeding as a step towards improving breastfeeding, possibly under the guidance of a lactation consultant.


  • Utilizing Feeding Syringes or Cups:

    For supplementing breast milk, especially useful in cases where the baby is still learning to latch effectively.

Additional Support and Resources

The journey of breastfeeding post-tongue-tie release often requires additional support and resources, which are vital for both the physical and emotional well-being of the mother and baby.


Professional Guidance: 


Seeking professional help from lactation consultants is highly recommended for personalized advice and techniques tailored to your situation. 


Additionally, joining breastfeeding support groups can provide a sense of community and shared experiences, offering both emotional support and practical tips from other mothers.


Educational Materials: 


To further support your breastfeeding journey, exploring a variety of educational resources is beneficial. Recommended are comprehensive books written by experts, informative websites with up-to-date research and advice, and supportive online forums where you can connect with other parents facing similar challenges, all of which can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

breast feeding for baby - What To Do When Baby Won


In conclusion, breastfeeding after a tongue-tie release may be challenging but is manageable with patience and the right approach. Key steps include:

  • Recognizing each baby's unique needs and adjusting techniques accordingly.


  • Seeking advice from lactation consultants and pediatricians for personalized care and to address any feeding issues.


  • Focusing on your baby's healing and comfort, and trying different breastfeeding positions.


  • Monitoring your baby’s growth closely and being open to alternative feeding methods.


  • Utilizing additional tools and supports, and tapping into a community of supportive mothers for guidance and encouragement.

With these strategies, patience, and resilience, you can effectively navigate the breastfeeding journey post-tongue-tie release.

Disclaimer: Articles published by Raising Mama are not intended as medical advice. For any concerns about your baby's health, please consult a pediatrician. In case of an emergency or life-threatening situation, dial 911 immediately. Your child's well-being is our utmost concern.

What is tongue-tie and how can it affect breastfeeding?

Tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, is a condition where the tongue's movement is restricted by a short, tight band of tissue tethering it to the floor of the mouth. This can significantly impact a baby's ability to breastfeed effectively by making it difficult to achieve a proper latch, which is crucial for efficient milk extraction and can lead to inadequate nutrition for the baby, discomfort for the mother, and potentially decreased milk production.

What should I expect immediately after my baby's tongue-tie release procedure?

After a tongue-tie release, it's common for babies to experience some immediate improvements in latch and feeding. However, full adjustment and improvement in feeding techniques can take 2-4 weeks, with ongoing support often necessary. In the first few days post-surgery, your baby may have low tongue tone, leading to temporary feeding difficulties. Gentle oral care and pain management are crucial for a comfortable healing process.

My baby still won't latch properly after the tongue-tie release. What should I do?

If your baby continues to struggle with latching after a tongue-tie release, it's important to seek professional guidance from a lactation consultant or pediatrician. They can provide personalized advice and support, including tailored breastfeeding techniques and identifying any other issues that might be affecting feeding. Experimenting with different feeding positions and techniques, and ensuring a supportive feeding environment, can also help.

How can I support my baby's healing and comfort after tongue-tie release?

Promoting your baby's comfort post-surgery involves gentle oral care, routine check-ups to monitor healing, and considering safe pain relief options with your pediatrician. Regular breastfeeding can offer natural pain relief due to the endorphins in breast milk, and skin-to-skin contact can be soothing for your baby. Be patient and provide a calm, comforting presence to help ease their discomfort.

Are there any additional resources or support available for mothers facing breastfeeding challenges after tongue-tie release?

Yes, there are several resources available for mothers facing breastfeeding challenges post-tongue-tie release. Seeking professional help from lactation consultants is highly recommended for personalized support. Joining breastfeeding support groups can offer a sense of community and practical advice from others who have faced similar challenges. Additionally, a variety of educational materials, including books, websites, and online forums, can provide further insights and encouragement to support your breastfeeding journey.