I can’t believe I’m writing this post but this needs to be addressed. Today at the tongue tie clinic, I was asked three times by different parents if this was possible? To divide so far back the baby might swallow it’s own tongue…. It is years since I heard this myth being touted by doctors, midwives and lactation consultants (it’s the latter that really astonishes me..)
One  very anxious mother asked – ” I know this is a stupid question, but could he swallow his tongue afterwards?”
Various people in the maternity hospital had said to today’s parents..
“It’s a dangerous procedure , your baby might swallow its tongue”
“I wouldn’t advise getting that tongue tie divided, its only mild, it will stretch and more importantly the tongue might double back on itself and choke the baby”   Wow, three myths in one sentence!
Let’s have a little anatomy lesson..

The tongue is an amazing thing – it is a muscular hydrostat (this means it can change shape in many ways-  like an elephants trunk or an octopus’s tentacles) . I can understand this might make people nervous of going near it with a scissors.

This is why tongue tie division should be performed by someone who has had surgical training.

However it is necessary to have good movement of the tongue for a baby to breastfeed well. 
Scaring parents by telling them myths is unfair and not supportive of women, babies or breastfeeding. It’s unprofessional, personal opinion and has no place in a ethical  evidence based profession, such as the IBCLC. 

The tongue is a muscle that is connected to the hyoid bone in the throat and the mandible (the lower jawbone). The frenulum is a piece of tissue that is underneath the tongue – it is not connected to the tongue muscles. When a frenulum is divided ( a tongue tie release)-  the trained person doing the procedure cuts back as far as the muscle. They don’t cut into the muscle. They cut the tissue in front of it and make a diamond shaped wound.  This diamond gives the baby extra lift, lateral movement and extension to manage the  mechanical work of breastfeeding.
Look at this image below, Can you see where the tongue is connected in both places? It’s just not possible for the tongue to fold back on itself.

Image from https://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/comd-462-final/deck/10357109
Here’s another nice video going into a lot more detail on the muscles and  nerves of the tongue and also the hyoid bone.