January 2, 2024

Will Tongue-Tie Surgery Help Your Baby Breastfeed?

Most parents report an improvement in breastfeeding, but there’s a chance the procedure won’t solve the issue

mother with newborn on chest in hospital bed

You want to breastfeed your newborn baby, but they just won’t latch. Maybe their attempts to latch are even hurting you. Could a tongue-tie be the problem?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“A lingual frenulum is a band of connective tissue, almost like a small string, that connects the base of the tongue to the floor of the mouth,” explains pediatrician Heidi Szugye, DO, NABBLM-C, IBCLC.

“Sometimes, the lingual frenulum causes the tongue to not move well, which can cause latching difficulties, breastfeeding issues or a painful latch that we call ankyloglossia, or a ‘tongue tie.’”

The procedure to clip and correct tongue-tie has become increasingly common in newborns. It’s been shown to help with breastfeeding — but it’s not always the answer.

Dr. Szugye explains the advantages and disadvantages of the tongue-tie procedure and what to consider first.

Pros and cons of tongue-tie surgery

If your healthcare provider suspects that a tongue-tie is the cause of your baby’s latch issues or your nipple pain, they may suggest a tongue-tie surgery, which has been reported to improve both. This procedure is also sometimes called a lingual frenotomy or just a frenotomy.

It’s a quick procedure, done using medical scissors or a laser, and it removes the connective tissue.

“This essentially frees your baby’s tongue for a broader range of movement and, hopefully, an easier time latching,” Dr. Szugye says.


But there are a number of factors to consider before having it done.

It may help your baby breastfeed

Not all babies with a tongue-tie have breastfeeding difficulties, but breastfeeding difficulties are more frequently reported in babies with tongue-ties. And if a tongue-tie is at the root of your baby’s breastfeeding problems, a frenotomy may very well solve the problem.

“A tongue-tie can limit the movement of the baby’s tongue,” Dr. Szugye says. “If it’s attached at the very tip of the tongue, it can pull your baby’s tongue into a heart shape.”

This prevents them from being able to make movement needed for pain-free and effective feeding, like:

  • Sticking their tongue out past their lower gum line.
  • Lifting their tongue.
  • Moving their tongue from side to side.
  • Cupping their tongue (moving it into a bowl-like shape).

In this case, once the connective tissue is removed, your baby can freely move their tongue again — and start latching better.

It comes with minimal risks

A frenotomy is a quick procedure that takes just a few minutes, but as with any surgery, there are potential risks. Though rare, possible risks of tongue-tie surgery include:

  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Pain.
  • Damage to the saliva ducts or nerves under the tongue.
  • Oral aversion (reluctance to feed).

Your child may not be a candidate for it

Not every baby is a candidate for tongue-tie surgery. There are some reasons a baby should not have a frenotomy, including certain bleeding or neurologic disorders.


It might not solve your breastfeeding issues

In general, Dr. Szugye says that more parents than not report an improvement in their child’s pain and latching abilities after tongue-tie surgery. But there’s a chance the procedure will not help improve breastfeeding — in which case, you’ll have to continue to pursue a solution.

Other causes of their feeding issues may include:

  • Improper feeding positioning or latch.
  • Oversupply or undersupply.
  • Breast anatomy.
  • Parental infection.
  • Craniofacial anomalies.

“If the tongue-tie isn’t what’s behind your baby’s pain or breastfeeding difficulties, it’s not likely to help,” Dr. Szugye clarifies, “or it may be a piece of the puzzle but not the complete fix.”

What to try instead of tongue-tie surgery

Before you pursue a frenotomy for your baby, it’s important to rule out other possible causes of latching difficulties. See a professional who’s trained in lactation and can assess a feeding.

“We always want to investigate and eliminate other causes of poor latch or nipple pain before attributing it to a baby’s tongue-tie,” Dr. Szugye says.

Related Articles

glass of nettle tea with fresh nettle herbs around the cup
February 7, 2024
Why To Be Wary of Lactation Supplements To Increase Breast Milk Supply

Breastfeeding supplements can be a needless expense at best, and risky at worst

pregnant female feeling her breasts
February 5, 2024
When Does Milk Supply Regulate When You’re Breastfeeding?

Typically, milk comes in a few days after birth and regulates around four weeks after delivery

Woman breast feeding baby in cradle hold position.
October 22, 2023
7 Common Breastfeeding Positions

From the football hold to the cradle hold, consider trying a variety of techniques

woman using breast pump
October 2, 2023
Tips for Breastfeeding if You Have Flat Nipples

Gentle massaging, lying on your side and hand-expressing a little milk can help

Parent breastfeeding their baby.
September 28, 2023
What To Know About the Breastfeeding Let-Down

Get your milk flowing by getting comfy, releasing stress and focusing on your baby

newborn baby skin peeling
September 18, 2023
If Your Newborn Has Peeling Skin, Here’s What That Means

All babies go through a perfectly normal peeling phase in the first couple weeks

Parent holding newborn while feeding them formula.
September 11, 2023
Babies Shouldn’t Drink Water — Here’s Why

Tiny kidneys and tiny tummies don’t mix well with water

woman holding baby while talking to doctor
September 4, 2023
Breastfeeding? Yes, You Can Still Get Pregnant

Popular myth says breastfeeding prevents pregnancy, but that’s not the whole story

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery