Breastfeeding: Can tongue-tie cause sore nipples in nursing mom?

About three days after my son was born my nipples looked as if they were open sores. I had successfully nursed my daughter, who is five, until she was 24 months old. After contacting my care providers I found out I have a yeast infection and a bacterial infection in my breasts and my son is tongue-tied. The infections are being treated. Do you have any information on tongue-tie's impact on breastfeeding?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) can definitely impact the breastfeeding relationship. When a baby is tongue-tied, even moderately, he may not be able to extend his tongue past his gum line, cupping the breast as he nurses, and properly drawing it deeply into his mouth. He may not be able to nurse effectively (Berg, 1990; Marmet, Shell, 1990; Nicholson, 1991; Notestine, 1990; Ward, 1990; Wilton, 1990).

This can often cause the mother to experience very sore and abraded nipples (and may result in an insufficient milk supply and poor weight gain). The nipple abrasion, in turn, can leave an excellent opening for a bacterial or fungal infection, as happened in your case.

Clipping a newborn's frenulum, or the frenulum of a young baby, to allow the tongue a full range of motion, can immediately improve the way breastfeeding feels. Some moms notice the difference immediately. When performed on a slightly older baby, it may take a few days or weeks until a baby realizes he can move his tongue easily.

When deciding whether or not to have your baby's frenulum clipped, remember, the tongue is not only used in breastfeeding. When your son licks an ice cream cone or lollipop, and even later, when he kisses, he may find these activities can be painful (or tiring).

More pediatricians are performing frenotomies (clipping the lingual frenulum) as an easy in-office procedure. Others will refer your case on to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist. Best wishes for comfortable feeds!

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