Doctors advise new mothers to breastfeed for at least the first six months of a baby's life, but a simple yet often untreated problem can sabotage their efforts, University of Florida researchers say.
Called a tongue tie, the problem occurs when the connective tissue under the tongue is too tight. A tongue tie can hinder some newborns from being able to breastfeed properly and painlessly, and this struggle can lead many new mothers to give up breastfeeding.
A simple snip can fix the problem, but many doctors still do not perform the procedure despite the effects a tongue tie can have on breastfeeding, writes UF neonatologist Sandra Sullivan, M.D., in an article published online this month in the journal Pediatrics.
"It is called a frenotomy, and it is far simpler than a circumcision, which we do fairly routinely," said Sullivan, an assistant professor of pediatrics and the lead author of the report. "It literally takes longer to fill out the consent form for the procedure than to do the actual procedure itself."
The problem is many practicing doctors were taught that the procedure is not medically necessary, Sullivan says.
But for babies to breastfeed effectively, their tiny tongues have to be able to perform a more complex type of sucking than what it takes to drink from a bottle. A tongue tie can hinder baby's efforts to move his tongue up, down and out, which he would need to do in order to nurse.
"If you take a bottle with an artificial nipple, there is not a lot a baby has to do to get milk," Sullivan said. "To get milk out of the breast, they have to make a vacuum and if they cannot get their tongue to the roof of their mouth, they cannot do this. They also need to use their jaw and tongue to move the milk along through the milk ducts in the breast.
"If they just bite on the nipple (like a bottle), first, it hurts (the baby's mother) a lot and second, it blocks off all those little tube
|Contact: April Frawley Birdwell|
University of Florida