Lactation consultant group investigates frenulum advocate

The national body that certifies lactation consultants is investigating whether a consultant in Boise, Idaho, has been inappropriately promoting an unproven procedure on new mothers struggling to breastfeed, according to a letter reviewed by The New York Times.

Lactation consultant Melanie Henstrom was featured in a Times investigation that examined the explosion of “lingual brace” procedures, which have become increasingly popular even though there is little evidence that the surgeries help babies. to breastfeed.

Henstrom is part of a burgeoning industry of lactation consultants and dentists who aggressively market the procedures, even to babies who have no signs of a tongue-tie and despite a small risk of serious complications.

The procedures often involve a dentist using a laser to cut away the bundle of tissues that attach the tip of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. Many braces are harmless and there is little evidence that treating them improves feeding. As procedures have accelerated, some lactation consultants and dentists have also recommended lasing the membranes that connect the lips and cheeks to the gums. Cutting all of these “oral ties” can cost parents hundreds of dollars.

Only three states license lactation consultants, and they face little oversight compared to other medical professionals such as nurses, doctors and dentists. A professional body, the International Board of Examiners of Lactation Consultants, issues credentials to 19,000 lactation consultants in the United States. The board’s guidance says consultants should not diagnose lingual ties or other oral ties in babies.

Since 2002, according to the board’s websitehas revoked the certifications of only three lactation consultants.

At least three people have complained to the board about Ms. Henstrom’s practices. They said he diagnosed babies with tongue, lip and cheek ties despite not having the authority to do so, and that he pressured parents to have the procedures, claiming that untreated frenulums could cause migraines or speech problems. A complainant said Ms. Henstrom forcibly opened her baby’s wounds after the procedure, causing her pain.

Henstrom did not respond to detailed questions about his practices. In a brief telephone interview last fall, he said he had many satisfied clients who believed the procedures had helped their babies.

Since The New York Times published its article in December, the board has sent letters to three people who filed complaints, informing them that their complaint was “valid and actionable” and that the board had opened an investigation into Ms. Henstrom.

The board did not respond to questions about the investigation.