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Babies Are Getting Their Tongues Clipped To Better Breastfeed

Doctors might suggest getting a baby's tongue clipped if it tied in order to help the baby nurse better.

Most mothers want to nurse their babies and dream about having their baby and then being able to nurse. Many mothers believe that nursing is a natural thing where baby and mother immediately know what to do and it is just a matter of putting a nipple in their mouth. Most moms will quickly figure out that nursing is not very easy. Both mother and baby have to learn how to nurse. Mother has to learn how to put in their nipple perfectly into their child's mouth so they have a good latch. A bad latch can result in bleeding nipples and even possibly infections. Breastfeeding can lead to infections such as thrush and mastitis. Mastitis causes severe pain and flu-like symptoms. And many mothers even experience a low production where they are struggling even making enough milk to feed their child. It can get pretty complicated.

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Breastfeeding can often be an emotional journey even though you might have always thought it was going to be a relaxing and bonding moment between you and your little baby. Certain aspects of breastfeeding can even cause more difficulties for the nursing mother. Some children are born where the bottom of their tongue is "attached" to the bottom of their mouth and this is called "tongue-tied." Having a tongue-tied can cause babies a tough time nursing. Some babies won't nurse because they can't actually latch on the nipple properly. Doctors may suggest you clip your child's tongue to help with the success of the nursing.

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Here's the issue with clipping tongues. Although the use of tongue-tie procedures have increased dramatically there isn't any clear data that suggests that the procedure is even helping them nurse better. It has been thought that the small piece of skin attaching the tongue to the mouth called the Frenulum is making it hard for babies to latch. The question remains, is tongue tie surgery necessary? “We have seen the number of tongue-tie and upper lip tether release surgeries increase dramatically nationwide without any real strong data to show these are effective for breastfeeding,” lead author Dr. Christopher Hartnick, director of the division of pediatric otolaryngology at Mass. Eye and Ear, said in a statement

Researchers launched a study including 115 babies who were referred to a pediatric ear nose and throat surgeon for tongue-tie and/or upper-lip tie surgery. They found that 63% of the children did not need the surgery. Instead of undergoing the surgery they decided to refer them to feeding evaluations and even speech pathology. They found that some parent's and doctors first response was to cut their tongues and lips when all the kids needed was special attention in speech therapy and nursing classes.  “We don’t have a crystal ball that can tell us which infants might benefit most from the tongue-tie or upper lip release,” said Hartnick. “But this preliminary study provides concrete evidence that this pathway of a multidisciplinary feeding evaluation is helping prevent babies from getting this procedure.”

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