NEWBORN babies should be more thoroughly checked and treated for tongue-tie to help boost breastfeeding rates, campaigners have said.

Charity the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said current NHS treatment is "patchy and sometimes non-existent", with many healthcare professionals unsure what to check for.

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An estimated 4-11 per cent of infants are believed to be born with the condition, caused when the membrane connecting the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short and thick.

It can mean babies struggle latch onto the nipple properly and breastfeeding becomes difficult and painful.

Chala McKenna, a first-time mother from Glasgow, is petitioning the Scottish Parliament to improve the detection of tongue-tie.

Mrs McKenna, 35, gave birth to her daughter, Ada, by emergency caesarean on December 3 2017 but struggled with breastfeeding.

She said: "I was counting to ten over and over in my head when I had to feed her just to try and calm myself.

"I was sweating, and crying, and had this searing pain, but you just have to keep going because otherwise you end up with mastitis or your milk dries up.

"I had lots of midwives coming in trying to help me and they were saying 'try all these different positions, put her in the football hold'.

"None of them mentioned tongue tie. I got a lot of 'breastfeeding is hard' and 'being a mum is hard'. I kept saying that I thought there was something wrong but I just felt that nobody was really listening."

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In January, Mrs McKenna, a public sector solicitor, visited a breastfeeding workshop in Shawlands, Glasgow run by NCT. She said the breastfeeding counsellor "took one look" at Ada and diagnosed a tongue tie.

She pushed for her health visitor to refer her to the infant feeding clinic at Glasgow Royal Hospital for Children and on January 16 Ada's tongue tie was removed. The procedure uses sterile scissors to snip away the skin and takes seconds.

Mrs McKenna said she noticed a difference straight away, but is angry the problem was not fixed earlier.

She said: "My nipple was so cracked that it just hasn't recovered. I still have to use a nipple shield which is a nightmare for feeding outside, and it collects a lot of milk and leaks.

"I just feel that I didn't need to go through all of that. I nearly gave up so many times. It's physically horrible because you're in pain, but it's also emotionally really draining.

"My husband would be bringing Ada to me and I'd be thinking 'I don't want her because she's just going to cause me a world of pain'. So it's really bad for bonding."

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Breastfeeding rates in Scotland are low compared to other countries.

Val Willcox, NCT's practice manager for the UK, said: "I am certain that there are women out there who have a baby with a tongue tie that has made breastfeeding very difficult and they have stopped before it's been picked up and treated.

"I wouldn't like to put a percentage on it, but I think that's definitely going to be the case.

"NCT would like to see more professionals trained to recognise and deal with the problem because current NHS treatment can be patchy.

"It's a real postcode lottery. Some areas are extremely good at identifying it and making a swift move to treatment where necessary; other areas there is little or no provision at all."

She added that NCT would welcome more research into the condition so that health authorities could provide clear evidence-based guidance on how to identify tongue tie and when to treat it.

Mary Ross-Davie, the Royal College of Midwives' director for Scotland, said babies are already routinely checked for tongue tie but that some cases are difficult to diagnose while others will not interfere with breastfeeding.

She said: "It is important not to recommend surgical procedures without first establishing whether the tongue tie impacts on breastfeeding.

"Many babies who have the appearance of tongue tie breastfeed without difficulty. Constant checking for tongue tie could potentially create anxiety and worry in the mother."