Treating tongue tie can help babies breastfeed

By • Published: October 26th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

From the moment a newborn baby utters his first scratchy “Wahhh!” he usually has one thing on his mind — food.

When it comes to a baby’s diet, breast milk is the premier selection on the menu. In fact, most doctors recommend women breastfeed their babies for the first year of life… and do so exclusively for the first six months.

But breastfeeding a new baby isn’t always easy. For some women, it can be downright painful.

A simple defect called a tongue tie can seriously hinder a mother’s efforts to breastfeed her baby. The problem occurs when the tissue connecting the baby’s tongue to his mouth is too tight. This prevents the baby from being able to suck to get milk. Instead the baby often chomps at the breast, which yields little milk for baby and doesn’t feel too good for Mom. Experts say a painless snip solves the problem and helps baby breastfeed better … yet many doctors don’t do it.

Why? According to a University of Florida article published in the journal Pediatrics, tongue tie treatment is surprisingly controversial. Depending on when pediatricians trained, they may have learned the procedure is not medically necessary. A baby with a tongue tie can get his milk from a bottle. But to breastfeed, a baby’s tiny tongue has to create a little vacuum to get milk out of the breast. And the tongue can’t do that if it is restricted by a pesky piece of too-tight skin.

Thousands of babies are born each year with this problem. According to the University of Florida expert, treating it gives Mom and Baby the best chance at breastfeeding.

Studies show that exclusive breastfeeding protects babies against common childhood illnesses such as ear infections and may even help stave off obesity.

It’s no wonder experts say breast is best.