People often ask me what my thoughts are on tongue ties – specifically whether or not I think they are over-diagnosed, whether I think they are a fad, and what I think of professionals who deny their existence.
Well here it is.
Some people are tied and some people are not. We should have professionals we can trust to assess and correct ties, and assist and support families through the recovery process so they can feed (and live) normally.
In an ideal world, this would be all I would have to say. Sadly, there is a lot about the way tie issues are handled that are not ideal.
I’m tired of feeling like tie issues are political. I’m tired of feeling like I need to say which team I’m on. When it comes to breastfeeding support, I think we should all be on the same team.
I’m tired of the issue of ties being so contentious that I have had to alter my language when I’m troubleshooting breastfeeding problems with other families. I feel like if I say “have you considered ties?” I might start a huge drama, basically where a bunch of people with loud opinions and an inability to listen to others join in the conversation to essentially embarrass themselves. Instead I find myself saying “Have you considered having your baby’s oral function assessed by a health care professional who is experienced in the way oral structure can affect breastfeeding? Some babies have physical deformities in their mouth that prevents them from breastfeeding effectively. Sometimes these deformities require surgical correction”. It’s convoluted and nonsensical, but I find myself feeling like I need to skirt the issue to avoid world war 3.
If ties are being overdiagnosed, then that’s a huge problem. And if they are being underdiagnosed, then that is also a huge problem. But the language people are using around these discussions, and the suggestion that families are irresponsibly seeking surgical treatment that’s unnecessary, is perhaps an even huger problem.
When I read posts about about ties being a fad, or that they are being overdiagnosed, and that online support groups are contributing to the problem, I feel like I am being blamed because my kids had ties, and having them surgically corrected had a positive impact on both of my breastfeeding journeys. I feel like I am being accused of making this perceived issue worse because I tell other people about my situation, and encourage them to investigate whether they are facing the same problems I faced. I have felt scorned for talking about my experience, and that is wrong.
Whether a family is being affected by ties, or whether they only think they are being affected by ties, the bottom line is that they have a problem that warrants investigation.
I’ve seen a lot of posts and articles published by medical professionals about ties that really concern me. The language used ranges from dismissive and patronising (as if accounts from individual families are irrelevant, as if their successes and failures are meaningless and as if they’re so stupid that they don’t even know what did or did not help their breastfeeding journey) to alarmist (implying negligence or abuse for either seeking or failing to seek surgical correction).
If you’ve promoted a strong opinion on whether tongue and lip ties are a fad, whether they are over or under diagnosed or whether mum-to-mum social media interactions are creating mass hysteria, then perhaps you need to think about the consequences of that, and what your ultimate goals are. Do you want to make parents afraid to talk about their experiences because they don’t match your own? Do you want to make political statements and criticise your peers? Or do you want to help families breastfeed. Every family is unique, and we would do better to focus on the individuals in front of us, instead of making sweeping statements about what is a very broad and diverse group of people.
Our community of breastfeeding advocates is too small to be divided over this issue.