How Lip-Tie Can Affect A Newborn's Ability To Breastfeed

If you are expecting a baby, one aspect of preparation you may be researching is whether you want to formula feed or breastfeed. Harvard Health says that, unfortunately, some women can experience a level of shame when deciding which route to take. There are a lot of factors that can go into feeding—for instance, some women may struggle to produce enough milk or some babies may still struggle to latch. Another factor during feeding that parents should be aware of is the potential for lip-tie. Take a look at what lip-tie is, how it affects feeding, and how a dentist can help resolve this issue.

What Is Lip-Tie?

Inside the oral cavity, there are connective tissues called frenula that sit behind the lips (the labial frenulum). These connective tissues help to control lip movement and keep the lips stable as your baby's face grows. Sometimes, babies may develop a lip-tie, where a frenulum becomes so thick that it actually restricts lip movement instead of assisting it. While lip-tie may be seen in babies with other health conditions, like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there isn't one specific cause for this issue.

If a baby has a lip-tie, he or she may struggle to latch during breastfeeding, tire out early during a feeding, and/or have poor weight gain. Some babies with lip-tie may hiccup after most feedings, be more fussy/gassy, and struggle with sleep. Some mothers may also experience more painful breastfeeding since the baby is struggling to create a sucking motion. The good news is that lip-tie can be easily corrected during a single dental visit.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Lip-tie can be caught during a newborn physical exam, but sometimes it's not easy to spot, so if your baby is having issues breastfeeding, you may want to visit a dentist for a diagnosis. Correcting a lip-tie at a young age is important not only to improve feeding, but also to improve overall dental health. Lip-tie can cause breathing problems, which could in turn lead to an underdeveloped palate and sleep apnea.

How Can a Dentist Treat Lip-Tie?

During an appointment, your dentist will not only check for lip-tie, but for tongue-tie, which is a similar condition that affects the frenulum under the tongue, and which can also contribute to breastfeeding difficulties.

To correct the problem, your dentist will perform a lip-tie release. One study found that lip-tie and tongue-tie releases could significantly improve breastfeeding outcomes. Lip-tie release is a quick, painless procedure. The dentist will use local numbing and anesthetic around the area and then use either a scalpel or laser to cut a small portion of the frenulum to loosen any tight bands of tissue. You may be able to nurse soon after the procedure. In fact, nursing and other lip movements are encouraged since a baby's mouth heals quickly; the movement helps to maintain the normal range of motion and helps the frenulum heal correctly.

Reach out to a dentist today for more information about lip releases.