‘Barbaric’ surgical trend harming babies
When Eliza Seward describes the "blood curdling" screams of baby Greta and it gives you chills.
Mrs Seward and her husband made the decision, on health professionals' advice, to have their newborn's tongue-tie surgically fixed.
She still breaks down thinking that wasn't the right thing to do.
While many mothers and certain experts are singing the praises of the procedure that allows new mums to breastfeed better by cutting into the base of their baby's tongue, Ms Seward isn't one of them.
And she's not alone, with the former head of the Australian Dental Association of Queensland warning there is limited benefit from a simple cut - for both the nipple pain in a young mum and the long-term benefits for their baby.
But despite warnings and concerns the rate of the procedure - which can be performed with scissors or laser surgery - has increased 420 per cent in a decade in Australia.
A study on tongue-tie in Aussie kids released last year warned that rate could increase even more in the next few years and "lead us to question whether this surgical management approach is supported by sufficient evidence".
There is no universally accepted definition of tongue-tie but it can be described as a congenital abnormality that limits the range of movement of the tongue, interfering with feeding or speech.
This week The Feed on SBS delves into the issue from all angles, explaining the procedure's rise in popularity thanks to social influencers like Debbie Jay who became one of the first in Australia to start recommending medical professionals who fix tongue-tie.
"I didn't want other mums to go through what I had gone through," she said.
"I would have loved to have known earlier on that Sophie had a tongue tie and that was what was causing her issues because I had so many nights with a screaming baby, trying to work out what was wrong."
Some say it's a simple solution while others call it the "wild west of medicine".
The Seward family had taken Greta to see a dentist who said "in no uncertain terms" that she needed to have the surgery.
"As soon as that laser hit her mouth, the screams were absolutely blood curdling and it just went on and on and on.," she told The Feed in a preview clip for Thursday night's episode.
"You could see smoke coming out of her mouth, you could smell it.
"I actually don't even think I was crying at that stage, I think just went numb. My husband kept saying 'hurry up, hurry up, you've got to stop, you're hurting her too much'.
"He ended up in tears, I've never seen him cry."
Mrs Seward said they were then escorted into another room and she was told to give Greta a feed.
"She latched on and it was no different to how it had ever been before and the doctor walked in and kind of glanced and said, 'Oh yeah ,that's a really shallow latch, good thing you had that surgery done'.
"At that moment was when it clicked no one had watched me fed her and yet they had all been saying I needed to have this done for breastfeeding to continue successfully.
"At that point I don't think either of us thought we'd done the right thing which is a horrible thing to think as a parent."
Ms Seward said it was "absolutely barbaric".
"I can't believe they do that to little kids, it just blows my mind," she said.
"In hindsight I look back and I think, what an idiot, why would I listen to someone but, at that time I'm in pain, I'm incredibly sleep-deprived, I'm a new mother, I'm freaking out, I'm hearing someone who I'm meant to trust, telling me that I'm setting my child up for failure if I, if I don't go right ahead and get this done."
General Dentist Jeff Kestenberg said there were no long-term risks and seeing the success stories were great.
But Professor Laurie Walsh, former head of the Australian Dental Association of Queensland, said there was no good evidence that cutting any part of the baby's tongue actually helped them feed.
"The evidence shows there is some limited benefit from just the simple cut, mostly on nipple pain in young mothers, but no long-term benefit on infant feeding," he said.
He said the procedure should not be done and why it was remained a mystery to him.
Marjan Jones of the Tongue Tie Institute said she preferred to say the evidence was still mounting then rule it out all together because it had not been peer-reviewed.
- The Feed airs on SBS Viceland at 8.30pm on Thursday.
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