New restricted frenulum clinic launched
New parents in west Suffolk will now have more choice of treatment if their baby is born with a tongue-tie.
Tongue-tie is where the strip of skin connecting a baby’s tongue to the floor of their mouth is shorter than usual. It can restrict the tongue’s movement, making it harder to breastfeed. Evidence available suggests that up to 11% of babies may have the appearance of a tongue-tie and about half of those will have difficulty breastfeeding.
Treatment isn’t necessary if a baby can feed without any problems. If their feeding is affected, treatment involves a simple procedure called frenulotomy.
Healthwatch Suffolk and the West Suffolk Maternity Voices Partnership raised the issue of tongue-tie provision with NHS bodies after people shared their stories about the challenges they had faced in getting a diagnosis, and how this had impacted upon their lives and the enjoyment of becoming new parents.
In response to the feedback, the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group has worked with the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) to establish a weekly consultant led Restricted Frenulum Clinic. This means that babies born at the West Suffolk Hospital, or those receiving postnatal care from midwives, can be referred for the release of both anterior and posterior tongue restrictions. These babies can be up to eight weeks of age.
Referrals to the clinic are made by staff that have received training in tongue-tie assessment. The clinic is supported by either a midwife or a midwifery support worker trained in infant feeding to Baby Friendly Initiative standards. After the restriction is released a supervised feed is undertaken to support mum and baby to begin breastfeeding.
To support the new service, WSFT has arranged opportunities for NHS staff to be regularly trained in the effective identification of tongue-tie in newborn babies, which is necessary to make referrals.
Lynne Saunders, head of midwifery at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are really pleased to be offering this new service to our new families – we hope it will support mothers to initiate and continue breastfeeding when possible, to promote the best start in life for their newborns. Alongside our partners at Public Health England we will be reviewing and monitoring the progress of our patients with follow-up appointments.
"I’d particularly like to thank Healthwatch Suffolk and the West Suffolk Maternity Voices Partnership for bringing the necessity for this service to our attention, and working with us to build this new service to accommodate our patients’ needs. We always strive for ways to improve the care we provide.”
Andy Yacoub, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “We are really happy to tell people about this exciting outcome. Newborn babies bring dramatic changes to our lives. The first weeks at home can be a very stressful period for both new and experienced parents, particularly if baby is not feeding well or losing weight. We are hopeful that this important new service will help to make things a little easier for people and support improved breastfeeding rates in our county.
“Prior to the establishment of this clinic, there was no service at all in west Suffolk. Parents would either have been referred to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for treatment, and may have faced extensive waits for treatment, or they may not have had the opportunity to get a diagnosis in the first place. The establishment of the clinic is a brilliant example of how people’s experiences can be a powerful tool to shape and influence our local offer of services. I would like to thank both the West Suffolk Hospital and also our local commissioning groups for responding so positively.”
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