Surgery to snip the bit of muscle joining the tong to the bottom of the mouth has become a popular fix when babies struggle to breastfeed - but it may not be necessary, a new study suggests.
The procedure, often referred to as tongue-tie surgery has became 10 times more common between 1997 and 2012.
Obstetricians, pediatricians and mommy bloggers are all fond of the mantra, 'breast is best,' but only about a quarter of mother-baby pairs manage to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of the infant's life.
But new Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary research suggests that babies may be able to learn to breastfeed with training just as well as via surgery.
About four percent of US babies are born with ankyloglossia, a condition in which a tight band of tissue closely ties their tongues to the floor of their mouths (pictured), which may interfere with breastfeeding. But new research suggests surgery is often unnecessary (file)
Breastfeeding confers health advantages like immunity, gut bacteria and growth factors as well as containing a naturally well-balanced set of nutrients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and just about every other major relevant health organization recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies through the first six months of their lives if at all possible.
However, there are a host of reasons that, in spite of a mother's best efforts, her baby may struggle to breastfeed.
One of those is a condition called ankyloglossia.
More commonly referred to as a 'tongue tie,' between four and 11 percent of newborns in the US come into the world with an unusually short or tight bit of tissue, called the a lingual frenulum, joining their tongues to the floors of their mouths.
This overly-tight connection means the tongue is less mobile, which may make it more difficult for the baby to latch on and suck milk from the mother's breast and may impair speech later in life.
But it doesn't always cause any problems at all.
In addition to a notched or heart-shaped tongue, trouble breastfeeding may be one of the first