Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, means the strip of skin connecting the tongue and the floor of the mouth is unusually short or tight, affects around 10 per cent of newborn babies in the UK
A mum who says she suffered from “24/7 pain” while trying to breastfeed her baby who was tongue tied has spoken of her difficulty getting her daughter diagnosed.
Clare Sinton, a Bristol mum-of-two, has described breastfeeding her baby Lily as being an “excruciatingly painful” experience that felt “wrong from the get-go”.
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, means the strip of skin connecting the tongue and the floor of the mouth is unusually short or tight, affects around 10 per cent of newborn babies in the UK.
According to the NHS the condition is not always easy to spot and can cause issues for both the baby – from a nutritional perspective – and the mother, causing pain while breastfeeding and inflammation.
Speaking to BBC News, Ms Sinton said breastfeeding her daughter Lily, who was born in October last year, felt as though “someone was dragging barbed wire or blades” through her nipples.
“I breastfed my son for 19 months so I knew what it should feel like,” she said.
She describes crying with every feed, and feeling as though Lily had a “beak” clamping down on her.
She was left dreading every feed, she said, and it was clear Lily could feel the tension in her body.
While treatment isn’t always necessary, around half of affected babies require treatment. A tongue tie division, which is thought to be painless for babies, can be carried out by doctors, nurses or midwives.
While Ms Sinton suspected her daughter might have a posterior tongue tie, and raised this concern with a midwife at Southmead Hospital, Lily was not diagnosed.
Her daughter underwent the procedure after Ms Sinton researched and sought out private treatment.
Feeding became “immediately” better following the operation, she said.
Following her experience, the mum is calling for better training for midwives and health professionals to diagnose tongue tie, to break down one of the obstacles to accessing services and support.
“It’s amazing that in this day and age you still have to fight for an assessment or diagnosis, and then still pay for an urgent procedure, despite it tearing you to shreds and risking your ability to breastfeed,” she said.
The Royal College of Midwives has said training on recognizing the condition and how to treat it is included in midwifery training, as well as training on supporting mothers having trouble breastfeeding.
Michelle Lyne, education adviser at RCM, said: “There is clearly a need for more research around tongue-tie, so that a definitive definition of what it is and when it is present can be agreed, so that evidence-based guidelines for support and treatment can be developed”.
Often babies with the condition would have no symptoms, she said, and the condition would resolve itself.
Problems also sometimes did not appear until midwife visits had stopped 10 to 14 days after birth, which sometimes made it more difficult to receive a diagnosis.
The Mirror has contacted Southmead Hospital for comment.