Frequently Asked Questions About Infant Frenectomies: What to Expect

by: Dr. Shannon Thorsteinson

Hello and welcome to today’s blog post! I’m Dr. Shannon, and I’m here to address some common questions parents often have about infant frenectomies. In this informative guide, we’ll delve into the essentials of this procedure and help you navigate the decision-making process for your precious little one.

1. What Is an Infant Frenectomy?

Let’s start with the basics. An infant frenectomy is a minor surgical procedure involving the cutting of the frenulum, a small fold of tissue beneath the tongue (lingual frenulum) or upper lip (labial frenulum). Most commonly, it’s performed under the tongue to address issues related to tongue or lip ties, which can impact a baby’s breastfeeding or bottle-feeding ability.

Statistics Alert: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 4-11% of newborns are affected by some degree of tongue tie, potentially leading to breastfeeding difficulties.

2. When Is a Frenectomy Recommended?

A common concern among parents is knowing when a frenectomy is necessary. The decision to proceed with the procedure should be based on your baby’s specific needs. If your baby experiences breastfeeding difficulties such as latching problems or painful feeding, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant who can evaluate your baby’s condition.

Statistics Alert: Research published in the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that up to 25% of infants with breastfeeding issues may have an undiagnosed tongue or lip tie.

3. What Happens During the Procedure?

During a lingual frenectomy, a healthcare provider will delicately release the tongue tie by snipping the frenulum. The procedure is relatively quick and is usually performed in an outpatient setting. Local anesthesia may be used to minimize discomfort, although for infants below six months, anesthesia is generally avoided to prevent swallowing complications.

4. What to Expect After the Frenectomy and After Care

The post-operative period is a crucial part of the frenectomy process. It’s important to be prepared for what comes next. Following the procedure, your baby may experience some discomfort and fussiness, which can last for one to three days.

Feeding and Pain Management

A common concern is how to feed your baby after a frenectomy. Dr. Shannon recommends having a backup feeding plan in place since your baby’s regular feeding routine may be disrupted. Methods like skin-to-skin contact, feeding on demand, and using breast milk ice chips can help soothe your baby. For infants over six months, you may consider using infant Tylenol for pain management.

Stretches After the Procedure

Stretches are vital after the procedure because we want the wound to heal correctly and guide that healing process. We create a video with your baby on your phone so you can reference it when performing the stretches. It’s essential to ensure clean hands and short nails when doing these stretches.

The wound site under the tongue will resemble a diamond shape. Our goal is to encourage the diamond to heal in a tall and skinny manner rather than short and wide. The stretching process facilitates this elongation, optimizing the healing process for the best possible outcome. Typically, we will see you twice after the procedure for post-operative check-ups to monitor the healing of the wound site.

7. Risks and Benefits

Like any medical procedure, a frenectomy comes with potential risks and benefits. It’s crucial to discuss these with your healthcare provider. Risks may include bleeding or damage to vital structures, though these occurrences are relatively rare. The potential benefits can include improved breastfeeding success, enhanced speech development, and overall oral health for your child.

Statistics Alert: According to the International Affiliation of Tongue Tie Professionals, mothers report a significant increase in breastfeeding success, from 25% to over 75%, following a successful tongue tie release [source: International Affiliation of Tongue Tie Professionals].

8. Preventive vs. Functional Goals

Dr. Shannon emphasizes that a frenectomy is not typically performed solely for preventive reasons. Rather, it’s done to address functional issues affecting feeding and overall development. Even if your initial feeding plan seems effective, unresolved oral restrictions may manifest as other challenges later in your child’s life, such as speech difficulties or sleep issues.

In conclusion, infant frenectomies can be a valuable solution for babies facing tongue or lip ties that affect their feeding and development. Seek professional guidance, weigh the risks and benefits, and understand the importance of addressing functional issues when considering this procedure. Remember that you’re not alone on this journey, and there are resources and healthcare providers ready to support you and your baby every step of the way.

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