Today I was once again presented with the straw man of the tongue tie vs. circumcision. You see, there are some people who would try and tell you that you shouldn’t be for clipping a tongue tie if you are against circumcision, as if the two issues are the same. Surely, you must be a hypocrite if you support clipping a tongue or lip tie but are against circumcision, right?! I’m going to break this argument down for those who may be at a loss to explain the difference or for those who may think it’s a worthy argument to make.
What is a tongue tie and why clip it? I could post an entire entry on what the tongue tie is (or lip tie, they are both worth looking into) and why it can cause problems with breastfeeding and other areas of health/development. There are many people who have provided commentary on this and I'll include some sources at the bottom but briefly: A tongue tie is a small piece of skin or frenulum that connects the tissue of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth and a lip tie is much the same but it connects the tissue of the lip to the area above the teeth or sometimes into the gumline. There is discussion that it can be genetic, that nutrition may play a role or that they are a type of birth defect. Not every person has one, it’s an abnormality and there are different variations and levels of severity. The more severe a tongue or lip tie the more restricted the movement of the tongue or lip. They can cause problems with a baby’s ability to breastfeed by impairing the ability to move the tongue or flange the lips. Milk transfer can be poor, weight gain may be slow, it can be extremely painful for the mother and as the child gets older they may have difficulty with solids, speaking and in the case of the lip tie they might develop a gap between their teeth and be more prone to tooth decay in the area around the tie. Many moms may suffer through this before switching to formula and feel like they failed at breastfeeding. As a result ALL of the risks of formula on both mother and child and the effects of loss of breastfeeding (grief, regret, PPD, increased risk of cancers) are something that can be included in the risk of NOT separating a tongue or lip tie.
In the past, before formula culture, it is said that midwives and doctors would release the tongue tie (clip it) as soon as they noticed it because they knew the issues a mom could face. It literally could save the life of a baby who was not able to nurse properly. As time passed and more mothers used formula less doctors were trained in diagnosing and treating a tongue tie.
We are talking about correcting an abnormality that has multiple known complications when not corrected. There are NO health benefits to keeping a tongue tie intact. There are many detriments. Typically after a tongue or lip tie has been released the baby goes straight back to nursing, there is very little blood, very little pain and almost INSTANT improvement of breastfeeding.
Now, let’s talk about circumcision. It is a birth defect to NOT be born with a prepuce. Every human, both male and female, is born with this organ, in males it is the foreskin and in females the clitoral hood. Removal of the foreskin can cause issues with breastfeeding (See above about including all of the health risks for cessation of breastfeeding), infection, blood loss, death, loss of penis, disfiguration, decreased sensation, increased risk of erectile dysfunction, PTSD, and the list just goes on. Male circumcision became popular in the United States as a “cure” for masturbation and since then has become a “cure in search of a disease.” There are many DEBUNKED myths that people claim as “health benefits.” But the fact is that it is an unnecessary cosmetic surgery that has great risks for no definite benefit to the baby.
When you look at the two, you can see the difference right? Releasing a tongue tie is correcting an abnormality that interferes with multiple areas of health across the child’s lifetime. The procedure has very few risks and is nearly painless for the child. It is often diagnosed by a professional and medically NECESSARY for improved breastfeeding (among other things).
Circumcision is the removal of a healthy functioning body part for no medical reason that risks the child’s life and can lead to lifelong complications. It is intensely painful and traumatic and considered a cosmetic procedure. There are NO definite benefits for the child and many possible detriments.
These two procedures are not the same. They are not comparable in terms of pain, reasoning, benefits/risks or medical indication. It drives me CRAZY when a doctor will refuse to release a tongue tie but perform circumcisions. If you want to peg the hypocrite here THAT is who you should be talking to. But I guess the $ from the lifetime of complications related to formula feeding and circumcision is much greater than the profit off clipping a tongue or lip tie and the continuation of breastfeeding. I suppose we could just chalk it up to maintaining job security and throw medical ethics out the window…
101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child
Breastfeeding a Baby with a Tongue Tie
Breastfeeding a Baby with a Tongue Tie
Introducing... the maxillary labial frenulum Thoughts on breastfeeding with an upper labial tie
Dr. Kotlow's Articles on Pediatric Dentistry
Kellymom: Breastfeeding a Baby with Tongue-Tie (Resources)
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Circumcision (Related reading at the bottom explains how circumcision affects breastfeeding as well as how NOT breastfeeding carries risks)
DrMomma.org Are you Fully Informed? (More than you ever wanted to know on circumcision)