A YOUNG mother from Moredon has backed calls from a national parenting charity to improve the treatment and diagnosis of babies unable to feed due to the congenital condition tongue-tie.
NCT, the largest charitable organisation dedicated to supporting parents, is urging the Government and health chiefs to take action and overhaul services available to families affected by the anomaly, which they described as ‘patchy’ and in some areas ‘non-existent’.
Tongue-tie happens when the fold of skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is shorter than usual.
Jalie Antal’s three-year-old son Kieran Lower was born with the malformation, which limited his ability to eat or speak.
He underwent surgery a year ago and within an hour of the operation was able to eat solid food and speak coherently.
The problem was not initially noticed during Kieran’s check-ups, but when it was eventually diagnosed, Jalie was told that her son was not eligible for the simple operation that would go on to change his life.
Without outside support and a donation from Domino’s Pizza to cover the cost of the £1,150 procedure, Kieran would still be struggling to feed himself or be understood.
“I feel let down,” said the 22-year-old. “The NHS would not pay for the operation. I was basically told by doctors he would grow out of it and that was it.
“But he was not growing out of it. It was scary. I was worried about him going to nursery since he couldn’t eat or drink properly. He ate soft foods.
“He was not breastfed but bottle-fed. At first it started off as a feeding problem but then it grew into a bigger problem.
“He couldn’t really speak and no-one could understand him. It’s a bigger problem than people think and it has a big impact on a child.
“If we had had more support, it would have been easier. He was in pain. We had no help.”
Tongue-tie, which affects around three per cent of babies, varies in severity. If a procedure is needed, the fold of the skin is cut in what is known as division.
As well as covering the cost of a simple operation, many families are forced to pay more than £100 for private treatment or abandon breastfeeding, according to the NCT.
Chief executive Belinda Phipps said: “Mothers who contact our helpline about this are desperate and usually in tears.
“Everyone who comes into contact with a new mum needs to be aware of tongue-tie as a possibility if there are feeding problems. And we would like to see a service for tongue-tie treatment available at every maternity unit in the country.”