Tuesday, 15 April 2014

tongue-tie

Hugo was born with a tongue tie. It's something that affects 1 in 10 babies and is more common among boys. 

Midwifes used to check routinely when babies were born and simply tear the tongue tie themselves using a nail or such like. Obviously this led to infections and so now it's done using a sterilised pair of small scissors. It's an incredibly simple procedure.

My midwife noticed the tongue tie on her first visit - the day after Hugo was born. She said that this could be affecting how easily he was able to latch on to the breast so could make breastfeeding more difficult. She referred us that day and said it should be up to 10 days for an appointment. 

10 days later and we were still waiting for a letter or phonecall. Breastfeeding was indeed difficult because he struggled with his latch and my boobs were starting to get very tender. He was having to work harder at the boob so was sleepy and taking a long time at each feed. I was constantly re-latching him and this was the only reason that I was able to last so long, as I didn't put up with pain.

It can make is near on impossible for women to breastfeed when a baby has tongue tie and the professionals were astounded at how well I was doing. It's therefore incredibly frustrating that throughout the pregnancy and birth, all health professionals in the nhs are guided to drill in to you the importance of breastfeeding, yet they can't do a simple snip of the tongue as a routine post-birth check which could make all the difference.

When my health visitor came on the 10th working day since the referral she called to follow up and gave us a number to call as well as a number for a complaint which she advised us to do. 

We called the following week and were told that there was a delay due to the one(!) doctor in the region qualified to do the procedure being off sick. They had apparently had a 'crisis' meeting and were holding extra surgeries to keep up with the demand. 

We were booked in for the following week - so Hugo was 3 weeks and 3 days. That's 3 weeks and 3 days of unnecessarily frustrating feeds if the procedure could be done at birth.

The doctor was an hour late, but luckily Hugo is a very content little man! I was getting stressed as I hated the idea of inflicting any pain or discomfort on to Hugo. I needn't had been, as he barely flinched. He was understandably a little resistant as the doctor and nurse opened his mouth, but the snip lasted a couple of seconds and he didn't feel a thing. The doctor simply dabed it with a cotton wool pad to soak up any blood and passed him back to me.

I was led into a room to breastfeed in private and the doctor advised me to make sure he doesn't fall asleep at the boob, to rid of old habits. He was able to latch straight away and I saw signs of improvement, but was just relieved that he wasn't in pain and could feed. 

Adi and I are fully intending to do something to help put tongue tie on the agenda. Something so simple can be all the difference between breastfeeding and not. Tongue tie can also lead to speech problems, yet is often not picked up until such a time, when the procedure does become a bigger thing and inflict pain. 

Why can't all babies be checked for tongue tie by the doctor who does the routine post-birth check? Why can't that doctor be trained to do the procedure? Why isn't there more than one doctor able to do it in my region? Why does it take so long for the referral? Why do different regions have different standards, with some refusing to do it all together unless it affects speech?

Answers on a postcard. 

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