US doctors are wrongly slicing off bits of babies’ TONGUES ‘to make breastfeeding easier’ and leaving them with life-long deformities, investigation finds

Doctors in the US are urging families to partially cut off their babies' tongues to make breastfeeding easier, a study warns.

Known as 'tongue tie surgery', it uses a laser to burn excess skin under the tongue or the tissue connecting the lips and cheeks.

It is intended to be used in babies with a true defect that prevents them from feeding properly, but medical professionals have become increasingly liberal in prescribing it, despite about 60 percent of babies getting better without surgery.

The number of surgeries performed increased by 800 percent between 1997 and 2012 from approximately 1,280 procedures to more than 12,000with doctors and breastfeeding consultants raking in millions of dollars annually.

In some cases, the procedure causes infants to have severe, persistent pain and difficulty feeding, resulting in malnutrition that may require them to be connected to feeding tubes.

Idaho-based lactation consultant Melanie Henstrom has received several complaints from families to whom she recommended tongue-tie surgery, whose babies ultimately became unable to breastfeed and ingest solid foods, leading to extreme malnutrition

Dentists who perform the procedure typically use a laser to cut the excess skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth

Dentists who perform the procedure typically use a laser to cut the excess skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth

A number of doctors told a New York Times research that,….. is a money grab by dentists and lactation consultants, who are subject to extremely little government supervision.

During tongue ligament release surgery – a condition in which an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue attaches the underside of the tongue tip to the floor of the mouth – that band of tissue is lasered away.

It has become a niche industry that, in some cases, brings in millions of dollars annually for dentists to perform the quick procedures for about $600 to $900 each on babies to facilitate breastfeeding.

Money is also passed on to the breastfeeding consultants who refer parents to doctors.

One of those lactation consultants is Idaho-based Melanie Henstrom, who, according to the New York Times, has received several complaints from her clients and healthcare professionals for aggressively pushing the procedure, which is not always medically necessary.

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners has received at least three complaints about Ms. Henstrom since 2020, including one from pediatric physical therapist Kelly Strickland, who said, “I was referred to parents who were uncomfortable, who came in for follow-up and said that it was traumatic, that she pushed so hard against their baby's mouth.'

Ms Henstrom is known to have recommended the procedure to mothers on Facebook without ever seeing the babies in person and has reportedly aggravated babies' pain by rooting around in their mouths and increasing pressure at the surgical site.

She also urged parents to fear that without the surgery, their babies would never breastfeed or eat solid food again.

But in reality, the procedure can cause a baby to lose his ability to use his tongue to extract breast milk and eat solid foods.

Idaho resident Tess Merrell was convinced to book newborn Eleanor for tongue-tying surgery by Ms. Henstrom.  Eleanor later refused to eat and became dangerously dehydrated.  She spent her first Christmas with a feeding tube

Idaho resident Tess Merrell was convinced to book newborn Eleanor for tongue-tying surgery by Ms. Henstrom. Eleanor later refused to eat and became dangerously dehydrated. She spent her first Christmas with a feeding tube

In one case, Ms. Henstrom recommended the procedure via a Facebook post to a Boise, Idaho, mother named Tess Merrell, despite a pediatrician, physical therapist and lactation consultant insisting that tongue-tying was not the cause of her problem to let her baby drink comfortably. .

Ms Merrell's baby underwent the procedure and shortly afterwards became malnourished and dehydrated.

Ms. Merrell, a high school football coach, said, β€œIt was touted as this miracle cure.

'We felt really stupid afterwards because we paid to hurt our baby.'

The doctor who performed the procedure, Dr. Joel Whitt, insisted that Merrell's experience was the only bad outcome out of the approximately 800 surgeries he has performed.

Ms. Henstrom is also known to have referred patients exclusively to a dentist named Samuel Zink. During procedures where Dr. Zinc cut babies' mouths with a laser, Ms. Henstrom held the babies while he performed the operations.

The New York Times investigation uncovered a litany of reports from mothers whose babies were placed on feeding tubes after losing an alarming amount of weight.

A mother in Montana who registered her baby for the procedure in November 2022 reported that her baby lost her ability to suck and dropped from the 97th to the 15th percentile for weight in just three months.

In Delaware, a pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor said she recently treated an 11-day-old baby who was hospitalized for severe weight loss after the procedure.

Between four and 11 percent of babies are born with the excess tissue that ties the tip of their tongue to the bottom of their mouth, but many doctors say the condition is harmless and the evidence claiming it improves nutrition is limited.

A notable 2017 analysis examined five different studies involving a total of 302 subjects to measure how well babies breastfed after the tongue-tying procedure. But the researchers behind the study had major caveats, including the fact that the sample size was small and only two were double-blind.

And none of the studies indicated any long-term benefit to a baby's ability to breastfeed in the long term, according to the analysis published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews.

The researchers concluded: 'Studies to date have not answered the clinically relevant question of whether (surgery) in infants with limited oral feeding with feeding difficulties results in longer-term breastfeeding success and resolution of maternal pain .'

'Only one study has examined frenotomy in infants diagnosed with moderate tongue tie and found that frenotomy had no objective effect on infant feeding nor on maternal nipple pain, but was subjectively effective.'

Doctors are sounding the alarm about the increasing number of procedures performed that they consider medically unnecessary.

For example, Kentucky-based Pediatric Associates warned parents last year about the growing number of dentists offering laser surgery “at very high prices,” adding, “We have seen babies in severe pain after this procedure, sometimes resulting in oral aversion (refusing to eat).”

A boom in baby food production lasted from the late 19th century through the 1960s before breastfeeding re-emerged as the preferred method of feeding a baby.

In 1977 a survey among American mothers found that two in five breastfed their babies, a double increase from fifteen years earlier, largely due to the growing belief among women that breastfeeding gave their babies a natural, healthier way to get essential nutrition.