The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has written to Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter urgng to improve the diagnosis and treatment of tongue-tie in the UK.
The parenting charity has raised concerns that a diagnosis of tongue-tie is often taking weeks or even months and the problem is not being picked up by health professionals. This can lead to babies not being able to feed properly and prevent them from gaining weight in their crucial first weeks.
NCT wants to see more professionals trained to recognise and deal with the problem as current NHS treatment is often patchy and sometimes non-existent.
Commenting on the issue, Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The key issue is all health professionals involved in the period around birth and postnatally need to identify infants with problems such as tongue-tie and ensure that it is not affecting breastfeeding. A small number of bottle fed babies will also experience problems.
"Immediately after birth there is a need to continue to observe the mother and especially before she is discharged from midwifery care. We need to ensure that there are sufficient infant feeding specialist midwives so women can receive expert help and support when they need it."
"We would also like to see more midwife-led tongue-tie clinics so that when these problems occur they get the specialist treatment and attention they need quickly and efficiently."
The Trust is also calling for NICE guidelines, published in 2005, to be updated to ensure that tongue-tie services are commissioned across the UK.
Tongue-tie affects some babies when the frenulum – the piece of skin attaching the tongue to the floor of the mouth - is positioned too close to the tongue tip. This means the tongue can’t extend very far, and may not be able to move up and down or side-to-side as it would otherwise do.
Treating the problem early is generally cheaper than looking after babies who are underweight and mothers who are in pain is costly.
We will have an in-depth feature on tongue-tie in a forthcoming issue of Journal of Family Health Care - click here to subscribe.