A snip to help babies breastfeed

Mothers are advised to breastfeed for the first six months of a baby`s life.

Last Updated: Jul 30, 2010, 13:31 PM IST

New Delhi: Mothers are advised to breastfeed for the first six months of a baby`s life, but a simple yet often untreated problem can sabotage their efforts, according to researchers.

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, says University of Florida (UF) neonatologist and study co-author Sandra Sullivan.

"It is called a frenotomy, and it is far simpler than a circumcision, which we do fairly routinely," says Sullivan, assistant professor of paediatrics.

"It literally takes longer to fill out the consent form for the procedure than to do the actual procedure itself," notes Sullivan.

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, according to a University of Florida release.

"If you take a bottle with an artificial nipple, there is not a lot a baby has to do to get milk," said an article quoting Sullivan, published in Paediatrics .

About four million babies are born in the US annually, of which between 40,000 and 100,000 babies are born with a tongue-tie problem.

IANS