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Doctors in France warn against ‘trend’ of cutting ‘tongue-tie’ babies

Medical authority l'Académie de médecine has said that the practice should only be done in case of a genuine issue and not as a matter of course or as a preventive measure

A mother breastfeeding a baby on a pillow

Tongue-tie can cause difficulties with breastfeeding Pic: Bricolage / Shutterstock

The growing "trend" for cutting 'tongue-tied' babies in France is alarming, medical authority l'Académie de médecine has warned, saying that the practice must remain the exception rather than the rule.

The practice, known as a frenoctomy (and sometimes a frenulotomy or frenulectomy) is the procedure in which the 'lingual frenulum' is cut. 

It is done when the frenulum (a piece of membrane fold under the tongue) seems unusually short or tight, (known as 'ankyloglossia' or 'tongue-tie'). 

Tongue-tie is said to cause difficulties with breastfeeding, which can lead to a lack of nutrition for the baby, pain in the breast when breastfeeding, and often intense stress for caregivers.

But l'Académie de médecine has now warned against what it sees as a rising “trend” in the practice among newborns in France, and other countries such as Australia. 

Professor André Chays, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and member of the academy, has warned that it should only be done if doctors notice a real problem, such as genuine ankyloglossia, and not as a matter of course or as a preventative measure.

He told FranceInfo: “It is not always the case, far from it, that when faced with a mother who has a problem with breastfeeding because the child has difficulty sucking or because the nipple pain is difficult to bear, to think that cutting the frenulum is going to fix it. 

“Then a frenotomy would be performed for nothing." 

The professor added that the practice is a surgical procedure that can lead to complications, although these are rare.

The medical body is now calling for more studies to determine cases in which cutting the tongue frenulum of babies is really necessary. 

It said that it does not condone frenotomy being offered, sometimes "at excessive cost", as a means to treat nipple pain or advocate early stoppage of breastfeeding, or of it being performed as a preventive measure.

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