What’s the Hype About Tongue and Lip Ties?
Inside of our mouths, there’s a piece of tissue called the lingual frenulum that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. You also have a labial frenulum that attaches the lip to your gums. In the case of an oral tie, the tissue may be thick, too short, or malformed in some way and restrict the movement of the tongue or lip. This can directly affect breastfeeding for babies and mothers. According to La Leche League International, oral ties may result in:
- Baby not latching.
- Baby unable to latch deeply.
- Pain for momma while breastfeeding. Her nipples may also become cracked, blistered or scabbed.
- A clicking sound while nursing.
- Difficulties staying latched.
- Sputtering/choking when coping with fast flowing milk.
- Baby breastfeeding constantly to get enough milk.
- Poor weight gain in baby.
Also, ever seen lip blisters on a baby’s lip? I grew up thinking they were something that every baby had. Truth is, they are common but not actually normal. There are a few causes for them (some as simple as needing to work on baby’s latch) and one of them happens to be from oral ties. Because baby has restricted movement of their tongue or lip, they can overuse their lip muscle to compensate to try and stay latched. The friction of their lip creates a callus (A.K.A. lip blister), or can make them have two toned, or swollen lips.
Oral ties are frequently missed and underdiagnosed by pediatricians or healthcare providers that aren’t well educated in identifying them. I’ve heard many a tale of a mom struggling through breastfeeding pain while their provider waves off tie concerns (or deems they don’t see a tie), only to find different care, finally have it revised, and experience immediate change. I actually discovered a few months ago that I have a slight tongue tie and found out that my mother struggled through pain while breastfeeding me and had noticed milk blisters as well. It took until 31 years of age for a new dentist to check and let me know I have one. They can cause dental issues later on such as smaller jaws and crowded teeth which I have.
If your baby has a lip or tongue tie, there are treatments and help. One of which is that a professional can perform a quick procedure called a frenectomy, where they cut the tie using sterile scissors or by cauterization. It typically only takes a couple of minutes and they have baby nurse immediately afterward. Afterward, some mothers need additional assistance with helping baby learn how to latch effectively with the help of a lactation professional, but I’ve personally had 2 friends that experienced immediate relief after their babies’ ties were cut.
For a great resource to learn more, here is an article from La Leche League USA:
I also love the instagram page @tonguetieexperts. They provide plenty of visuals of babies with ties and do great Q&A’s weekly.
Until next time,