Skip to main content

CranioSacral Therapy Helps Alleviate : Infant Tongue-Tie

May 26, 2019 ● By Carol Sherby

by Carol Sherby

Everyone has heard the expression “tongue-tied” used in conversation in one way or another. The actual word comes from a medical condition. In conversation, the expression “tongue-tied” may indicate a state of momentary mental confusion, but ankyloglossia (anchored tongue) is also the medical term for a condition which restricts the tongue’s range of movement and renders a person unable to speak freely.

        A tongue-tie refers to the frenulum within the mouth, a thin, string-like tissue underneath the tongue that connects the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The frenulum may be too short or too tight, causing tongue restriction or improper tongue movement. A tongue restriction may be the result of strained muscles, ligaments or cranial misalignments due to a difficult birth or position in utero.

        Tongue-tie in infants can lead to breastfeeding issues when the baby cannot make a proper seal or closure around the nipple, or cause pain. The baby cannot maintain latch suction and may become frustrated because they are still hungry. The baby may prefer to be fed only on one side because a muscle to the neck is tight and causes strain. Often, the flow of milk is too great because the baby cannot move the tongue into proper position to regulate the flow. An upper lip tie or posterior tie are ties that can affect nursing, also. The tongue is important because as a muscle, it begins to compensate for the affliction rather than function as intended.

        Many muscles are connected to the tongue and throat. Specifically, the tongue is attached by a muscle called the hyoglossus to a boomerang-shaped bone known as the hyoid. According to John E. Upledger, DO, author of CranioSacral Therapy II: Beyond the Dura, there are 14 pair of muscles and connective tissue structures attaching to the hyoid. If the frenulum is tight, constriction of the tongue can elevate the hyoid and raise the shoulder, creating strain. This most often occurs in the muscle that connects the breastbone and collarbone to the skull (sternocleidomastoid). The result can be stiff and painful neck muscles and back muscles.

        Symptoms of tongue-tie in infants include painful nursing, poor feedings, baby stressing/latching difficulties when nursing, preferring one side or specific position, a clicking sound when the baby can no longer maintain latch, reflux or spitting up, inability to hold a pacifier, strong gag reflex, excess saliva production/milk dribbling out of mouth, favoring the use of one arm over another and being a poor sleeper that wakes often.

        CranioSacral Therapy (CST) has been found to be an excellent therapy for releasing these muscular tensions because it works with the 22 bones of the cranium and the muscle attachments to those bones. The spinal cord fluid created in the cranium moves the bones as it travels, bathing the nerves and neurons along the spinal cord. There is a rhythmic movement the therapist is taught to feel, and CST finds the imbalance in that rhythm. Through gentle, light touch or pressure, CST helps release tension and relieves restrictions and pain.

        A CST session takes place with the mother and/or father, baby and the practitioner. The three become a team. It is best to do the therapy before the baby has started crawling, but not required. The baby can be playing or even asleep. It is a quiet session, but a special one, because the baby gets an entire hour of uninterrupted attention from their favorite people—Mom and Dad. It is quality play time with each other while the practitioner works.

        Those concerned about whether breastfeeding issues are possible due to tongue restrictions should contact an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), accredited orofacial myologist (IAOM), pediatric dentist or other qualified healthcare professional. Structural asymmetries of the baby’s head should be considered and a functional tongue assessment should be done. A surgical revision is a big decision, and parents want to be knowledgeable and informed of their options.

        Look for a qualified CranioSacral Therapist. Perhaps bodywork and the gentle technique of CranioSacral Therapy is all the baby requires.


Carol Sherby is a licensed massage therapist, certified CranioSacral Therapist and owner of One Mind and Body CranioSacral Therapy, located at 22W550 Poss St., in Glen Ellyn. For more information, call 630-205-1075, email [email protected] or visit


Illustrations provided with permission granted by Upledger Institute International