Babies suffering from tongue-tie are facing a lack of access to operations and one father is campaigning to help them after being asked to wait months for his infant son’s procedure.
Andy Johnson-Creek, a Berrylands councillor, and his wife Claire, of Church Lane, Chessington, had their son Felix at Kingston Hospital in January, after which they found out he had a tie-tongue.
The hospital used to have staff able to perform the operation quickly, but now do not.
Affected babies have restricted movement of their tongue and jaw, which can cause difficulties in breastfeeding, colic and gas and speech impediments if left untreated.
This can lead to a weaker bond between the mother and baby, and has been linked to post-natal depression.
The couple was referred to a GP and then given an appointment for the procedure more than two months later.
Mr Johnson-Creek said: “Everyone knew that Felix was going to have problems. We decided that we couldn’t wait weeks for this appointment. The longer you leave the tongue tie the worse the effects can be.”
They decided to get the operation done privately, at a cost of around £140 – much cheaper than the national average – but Mr Johnson-Creek recognised that not everyone can afford to do the same.
Determined, he set up a petition that has gathered over 93,000 signatures, demanding that all NHS maternity units check for, and correct, ties at birth.
“The petition has really affected people,” he said.
“If you read some of the comments then you’ll see how horrible it is to go through breastfeeding with a baby who can’t do it properly. It is awful for the baby and for the mother.”
Mr Johnson-Creek has lobbied Kingston Hospital to improve its service.
“Kingston has been really good in noticing the problem, and saying it can do something about it. Now we need to hope and pray it is able to.”
A spokesperson for Kingston Hospital said Gina Brockwell, director of Midwifery, met with the Ear, Nose and Throat Unit team on April 13 to discuss the possibility of the infant-feeding midwife working with the oral surgeons to assist in the tongue-tie separation service.
She said: “It is very important that the correct assessment is made by the midwife to diagnose if the tongue-tie is affecting the baby’s feeding before it is deemed necessary for the tongue-tie separation procedure to take place.
“Kingston maternity service midwives support parents and new born babies feeding with a specialist infant feeding team to give additional care and support in accordance with the Unicef, baby friendly initiative.”
She also confirmed the hospital has been in discussion with Kingston Care Commissioning Group regarding making a business case to a group of south west London hospitals (covering Richmond, Kingston, Wandsworth, Sutton, Merton and Croydon) for training the community midwife team to do the procedure without needing a clinical referral.
Felix Johnson-Creek’s situation was not an isolated one, as almost 10 per cent of babies in the UK are born with the condition.
To view the petition, click here.
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