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Tongue-tie study helps Berkshire mum breastfeed

Tongue-tie study helps Berkshire mum breastfeed

A Berkshire trainee nurse whose baby took part in a study into whether surgery for tongue-tie helps with breastfeeding is urging others to take part in NHS research. 

Woodley’s Lauren Le-Marniel, 22, can breastfeed four-month old Theo Simmons since he underwent surgery for tongue-tie as part of a University of Oxford study in November. 

The FROSTTIE study - supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) - is looking at whether breastfeeding advice and support alone or with surgery is more effective for mothers and babies with tongue-tie.

The condition - where the skin connecting the baby's tongue to the floor of their mouth is too short - can restrict the tongue's movement and may make it harder to breastfeed.

Theo was diagnosed with tongue-tie three days after he was born at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital on 3 October. 

Miss Le-Marinel, who works at the hospital’s trauma unit, said: “At the beginning I didn’t think anything was going to help. I thought he was going to be this baby that just screamed all the time and wouldn’t take to my milk.

“I didn’t find out he was tongue-tied until after three days of being in hospital. I said that I wanted breastfeeding support and two weeks later, a research midwife contacted me about taking part in a study. 

“I didn’t know what was best for him, so I just thought ‘why not?’.”

To breastfeed, the baby needs to latch onto both the breast tissue and nipple and their tongue needs to cover the lower gum to protect the nipple from damage.

Some babies with tongue-tie are not able to open their mouths wide enough and have difficulty staying attached for a full feed. This can make babies unsettled and appear hungry and cause problems for the mother, such as sore or cracked nipples and inflammation of the breast.

Surgery to cut the skin connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth may be recommended. However, there is not enough evidence to suggest surgery is always needed or if problems can be resolved with advice on breastfeeding alone. 

Participants on the study are randomly allocated either breastfeeding support alone or with surgery, to compare the two. 

Miss Le-Marinel was initially given weekly sessions of breastfeeding support alone, which involved advice such as how to properly position the baby while feeding. After five weeks, Theo was still struggling to breastfeed and so was moved to the surgery group. 

Miss Le-Marniel said: “He couldn’t latch on deep enough and they initially they looked at attachment, positioning and latching but he still wasn’t going on properly, despite trying different ways. I also ended up blistered and bruised and I just had to push on with it.

“Every time we went to the hospital for the clinic, it was really the only time we properly went out of the house because he was just so bad. Within seconds of being in the hospital and him not moving because of the car, he was screaming.

Mothers on the study are contacted when babies are three months old, to see if they are still breastfeeding. 

Miss Le-Marinel and partner Sam Simmons, 21, noticed a change in their son’s behaviour since taking part. She said: “If it wasn’t for the study team, I would have stopped trying to breastfeed a long time ago and just bottle fed him. I’m so glad I did it and I don’t think there’s any coming back down from it now.

“Now he’s happy settled just on milk and we can go anywhere. We can actually go to town and not hide away. He’s just completely different.

“I’d definitely recommend taking part in research. It doesn’t harm anything, nothing changes because of it, you’re just there giving help to other people.”

Fidelma Lee, research midwife and FROSTTIE Principal Investigator (PI) at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, said: “We want to find improved evidence for the best way to help mothers breastfeed when their babies have tongue-tie, as previous studies have only had small numbers of mothers and babies.

“Breastfeeding is important because it has been shown to have many benefits for the mother and baby. Besides the fact that breast milk comes at the right temperature, is free and always available, it has antibodies which protect from infection and diseases such as type 1 diabetes. 

“It also helps mothers bond with their babies and lowers their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

For more information on the FROSTTIE study contact frosttie@npeu.ox.ac.uk / 01865 617919 or visit www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/frosttie.