Randomized, controlled trial of division of tongue-tie in infants with feeding problems

Monica Hogan, Carolyn Westcott and Mervyn Griffiths

Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 41 (5-6), 246–250. – May 2005


Objective: To determine whether, in infants with a tongue-tie and a feeding problem, the current medical treatment (referral to a lactation consultant) or immediate division works best and enables the infants to feed normally.

Methods: Between March and July 2002, all the babies in the district of Southampton with tongue-ties were followed in order to see if they had any feeding problems. If they developed problems, the mothers gave written consent and were enrolled in an ethics committee approved, randomized, controlled trial, comparing 48 h of intensive lactation consultant support (control) with immediate division.

Results: A total of 201 babies had tongue-tie, of whom 88 had breast-feeding or bottle-feeding problems. Thirty-one were not enrolled, so 57 were randomized. Of the 29 controls, one improved (3%) and breast-fed for 8 months, but 28 did not. At 48 h, these 28 were offered division, which all accepted, and 27 improved (96%) and fed normally. Of the 28 babies who had immediate division, 27 improved and fed normally but one remained on a nipple shield (P < 0.001). Twenty-four mothers breast-fed for 4 months (24/40, 60%). Overall, division of the tongue-tie babies resulted in improved feeding in 54/57 (95%) babies. Conclusions: This randomized, controlled trial has clearly shown that tongue-ties can affect feeding and that division is safe, successful and improved feeding for mother and baby significantly better than the intensive skilled support of a lactation consultant.