Surgery to cut off the piece of muscle that connects the tongue to the underside of the mouth has become a popular solution if babies have difficulty breastfeeding – but it may not be necessary, a new study suggests.
The procedure, often called tongue-and-neck surgery, occurred ten times as often between 1997 and 2012.
Mom's obstetricians, pediatricians, and bloggers all love the mantra, & # 39; breast is the best & # 39; but only about a quarter of mother-baby couples can exclusively breastfeed the first six months of the baby's life to give.
But new research from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary suggests that babies can learn to breastfeed just as well as through surgery.
About four percent of babies in the US are born with ankyloglossia, a condition in which a narrow strip of tissue tightly binds their tongues to the bottom of their mouth (pictured), which can disrupt breastfeeding. But new research suggests that operations are often unnecessary (file)
Breastfeeding provides health benefits such as immunity, intestinal bacteria and growth factors, and contains a naturally balanced range of nutrients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and just about every other important relevant health organization recommends that mothers only breastfeed their babies during the first six months of their lives if that is possible.
There are, however, numerous reasons why, despite her mother's efforts, her baby has difficulty breastfeeding.
One is a condition called ankyloglossia.
Usually referred to as a & # 39; tongue tie & # 39 ;, between four and 11 percent of US newborns come to the world with an unusually short or tight piece of tissue, called the lingual frenulum, that puts their tongue on the floor of brings their mouth. .
This excessively tight connection means that the tongue is less mobile, making it more difficult for the baby to click and suck milk from the mother's breast and disrupt speech later in life.
But it doesn't always cause problems.
In addition to a carved or heart-shaped tongue, breastfeeding problems can be one of the first signs of a tie.
Surgery to fix a tongue sling is simply short and non-invasive. The only thing that is needed is a quick cut to the extra frenulum tissue.
The procedure, called a frenulectomy, involves just a few drops of blood, about 15 seconds of crying (according to previous studies) and no complications to talk about.
But it is undoubtedly painful and unpleasant for a baby and for their family to see.
Nonetheless, frenulectomies have become much more common in the last decade.
Less than 1300 such operations were carried out in 1997.
In 2012 there were 12,406, although the number of babies born each year remained virtually unchanged.
This 10-fold increase raised some eyebrows at the eye and ear center at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Researchers there recruited 115 babies & # 39; s who had been referred to a specialist for frenulectomy and first gave them sessions with a pediatric speech and language pathologists to evaluate and work with the mothers and babies & # 39; s.
After working with the specialists, nearly 63 percent of babies were more capable of breastfeeding and gaining weight and their family opted for surgery.
Some children have these tissue attachments that hold their upper lip too close to their upper gums and about 28 percent of the recruited babies were operated on to correct both this and the throat.
Another 8.7 percent had surgery just to fix the tongue.
Tongue surgery is often regarded as & # 39; medically necessary & # 39; for babies who have difficulty breastfeeding and are therefore covered by insurance.
They cost around $ 850 at baseline if done in a doctor's office without anesthesia, but up to $ 8,000 or $ 9,000 to perform in a hospital, under general anesthesia.
Rates for pediatric speech pathologists vary widely and may or may not be covered by insurance, but the rates of the specialists can be anywhere between $ 100 per half-hour session and $ 250 per hour.
In the new study, mothers and babies went to the pathologists for three to fourteen days.
And it didn't work for every baby, but for a majority, therapy meant they didn't need the surgery at all.
& # 39; We don't have a crystal ball that can tell us which babies & # 39; s can benefit most from loosening the tongue or upper lip & # 39 ;, said lead investigator Dr. ir. Christopher Hartnick.
& # 39; But this preliminary study provides concrete evidence that this path of a multidisciplinary nutritional evaluation helps prevent babies & # 39; s from getting this procedure. & # 39;
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