Effects of Tongue Tie on the Sleeping Baby

by Myra Hartzheim
A pediatric sleep consultant holds a baby that keeps waking in the night

So your baby has a tongue tie. The significance of tongue tie on sleep is two-fold.

  • First, the baby has limited tongue mobility due to tightness in the frenulum, so instead of being able to breastfeed for long sessions, the eat in shorter bursts. Therefore, they are hungry more often. The baby may want to eat every thirty minutes to an hour because they can’t get full in one feeding. Weight gain can be a serious issue.
  •  Second, the baby has an improper latch on the breast, causing more air to be swallowed. This causes an excess of gas and many times colic and persistent crying.

This is an exhausting situation because the mother is constantly feeding and burping the baby. The mother and baby are both sleep deprived and cranky. The “witching hour” can be more prolonged and aggravated.

There are many symptoms of a tongue tie. When a tie is suspected, these are some common complaints from the mother:

  •  Baby nurses on the end of the nipple
  •  Nipple pain and/or damage
  •  During a feeding, an audible clicking sound can be heard (lip tie particularly)
  •  Persistent crying and a gassy baby
  •  Low milk transfer from the breast to the baby, “I’m still engorged and the baby has nursed for the last 45 minutes and is fussy like she is still hungry”
  • Baby is always hungry, but only feeds for 5-10 minutes at a time

What to do about tongue tie?

Get support! No mama during the postpartum period should be without help and this scenario is even more of an extreme. Call your support network, whether friend, family or religious community to bring meals, do dishes, care for siblings, do laundry, etc.

Next, help the baby. See a certified lactation counselor (CLC) or international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) who has expertise on ties. Do the research and ask for referrals from other local mothers. A CLC or IBCLC cannot diagnose a lip or tongue tie, however, they can evaluate how breastfeeding is going and rule out other possibilities. They can point out “limited mobility” and give proper local referrals. When seeking out a CLC or IBCLC ask if they have experience or education on this topic. Many CLC’s/IBCLC’s have a niche specialty, so ask for references.

If the baby has body tension, consider bringing the baby to a bodyworker that can help release the tension. Many times, once the tension is released, so is the tie. This is most successful if done within the first few weeks of life. Adequate bodyworkers include pediatric specialists in massage, physical therapy, craniosacral therapy, myofascial therapy and chiropractic care. Craniosacral and myofascial therapists seem to have the best outcomes (depending on the practitioner). Numerous visits may be required to release the tension fully and then, depending on the tie, may not need revision. Breastfeeding should continuously improve with bodywork care.

Many times bodywork is not enough and a revision is required. Once again, go to the expert. Get referrals and travel if need be to get the best care possible. Laser revision has benefits over scissor revisions, especially with a lip tie revision which can bleed. Post revision, baby may instantly latch better which brings instant relief. Other babes, need more post care.

Keep your health wellness team close. See the lactation adviser after the revision for follow-up care, particularly for post revision exercises. An occupational therapist may also be a proper referral to help the baby break poor nursing habits and learn proper latch. Another visit to the bodyworker may also be in order as the procedure itself can cause neck and jaw tension. Keep asking for help from your support network until the balance in home life is found. It can be a long road depending on the baby and situation. Keep the faith, and have hope.

Are you or someone you know struggling with breastfeeding? Please check out Mom Loves Best helpful blog for breastfeeding tips: Our Top 60 Best Breastfeeding Tips For New Mothers.

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Christine Renee, LLC




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2 comments on “Effects of Tongue Tie on the Sleeping Baby”

  1. I never took into account that a tension observed in the body of the baby can mean that they have a tongue-tie. I hope that I can find a professional soon to get my baby checked. It just worries me that he might have this because he doesn’t make a sound that much compared to other babies I’ve seen or been with.

A pediatric sleep consultant holds a baby that keeps waking in the night


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