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What is Tongue-Tie and how does it affect breast-feeding?

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Question

Dear Dr. Laura,
What is tongue-tie in infants? Does it prevent breast-feeding? Is it bad to clip the baby's tongue?

Answer

"Tongue–tie" simply means that the baby's "frenulum" -- the membrane that attaches the tongue to the roof of the mouth -- is shorter than usual. While some babies with short frenulums nurse just fine, it can make nursing very difficult.

In past years it was considered normal to simply "clip" the frenulum and free it so the baby could suck more easily. However, since most doctors are not knowledgeable about nursing, many are unaware that a tight frenulum can be an issue, and therefore they don't diagnose the problem when the baby won't nurse. Even when the diagnosis is offered, many doctors have never clipped a frenulum before and are nervous about doing so.

I am not a medical doctor, but an unhappy baby means an unhappy mother and bonding problems! In my opinion as a psychologist, if the baby is having problems with latching on and getting enough milk, a lactation expert should always be consulted. S/he will check whether the baby's tongue is tied and make a recommendation. If your pediatrician is not familiar enough with nursing and has not previously done a frenulum clip, your lactation consultant will almost certainly be able to recommend a more experienced doctor.

Here's an interesting article from the perspective of a post-natal doula:

http://www.acornpack.com/content/kindest-cut

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