Like most new mothers, Lisa Treilman really wanted to breastfeed.
But like many women, Treilman had difficulty. After two months, her nipple pain was intense, despite wearing a protective silicone nipple shield while nursing. Each feeding took an hour, yet Treilman often supplemented it with a bottle of pumped milk because daughter Shoshana still seemed hungry.
What happened next is also increasingly common — and part of a medical controversy that Treilman couldn’t have imagined. Shoshana was diagnosed with a tongue tie: The tissue tethering the infant’s tongue to the floor of her mouth was too tight, so she couldn’t properly latch on and suck.
A pediatric dentist used a laser to clip the thin membrane, called the lingual frenulum, enabling freer tongue movement. A few weeks later, Treilman recalls, breastfeeding became a breeze, efficient and effective.
“The procedure took under a minute. She cried for under a minute,” said Treilman, who lives in Fishtown with her husband, Mark, and their daughter, who is now 6 months old. “Until I went through it, I had no idea tongue tie was even a thing.”
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is actually an ancient condition (for a biblical mention, see Mark 7:31-37) that has become a hot international debate in neonatal medicine.
On one hand, cutting an infant’s frenulum with a laser or sterile scissors — a frenotomy — is a minor procedure, done without anesthesia, that very rarely causes any complications. Studies find it facilitates breastfeeding in many cases.