Lip Tie in Infants and Toddlers: Symptoms and Treatment

The frenulum, the piece of tissue that lies behind your upper lip, is also known as the saline. These membranes can prevent your upper lip from moving freely if they are too thick or stiff. This is known as a lip tie.

Although lip tie has not been as extensively studied as tongue tie in the past, treatments for both tongue ties or lip ties have been very similar. A tongue tie or lip tie can make breastfeeding difficult and, in some cases, may cause babies to gain weight.

Lip ties are more common than a co-occurring condition called tongue tie. There’s reason to believe that lip ties and tongue ties are genetic.

Lip tie isn’t dangerous for babies, as long as they’re gaining weight according to their pediatrician’s guidelines. Lip tie is easy to correct once it’s been diagnosed.

A lip tie or tongue tie is one of the most common symptoms that can indicate difficulty breastfeeding. The following symptoms may be present:

  • Having trouble securing your breasts
  • Trouble breathing while feeding
  • Nursing: Making a clicking sound
  • falling asleep often during nursing
  • Nursing can make you feel extremely tired
  • Slow weight gain or insufficient weight gain
  • colic

If a child has lip tie and you’re a breastfeeding mother, you may experience:

  • Breastfeeding can cause pain, either during or afterwards.
  • Breasts that feel full even after nursing
  • Blockage of milk ducts or mastitis
  • Breastfeeding can cause fatigue, even though your child seems full all the time.

Babies with severe lip or tongue tie may have difficulty losing weight. If your baby needs more nutrition, you may need to supplement breast milk with formula or breastmilk fed from a bottle.

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), babies who have severe tongue tie or lip problems may have difficulty eating with a spoon or using finger foods.

Lip ties don’t have as many complications later in life. Some pediatricians believe that a untreated lip tie can increase the likelihood of tooth decay in toddlers.

The maxillary labial fenulum, also known as the maxillary labial frenulum, is the membrane that connects upper lip to upper gums or palate. This isn’t out of the ordinary. Having a labial frenulum that connects your lip to your gums doesn’t always mean that there’s a lip tie.

The key to diagnosing a lip tie is understanding if the upper lip’s movement is restricted. If the lips aren’t able to move because the membrane is rigid or tight, your child may have a lip tie.

If your child does not experience any symptoms or problems due to a membrane connecting the upper lips and the upper gumline, it may be a labial frecum.

A feeding evaluation should be performed for babies with breastfeeding difficulties. A doctor should be able quickly to determine if there is a problem with their latch.

A baby with a lip tie may be able to drink from a cup more easily. Both breast milk and formula bought at the store are acceptable forms of nutrition. They’ll keep your baby on the right track, growth-wise, while you figure out if your child needs a lip tie revision.

If you’d like to continue breastfeeding, make sure that you pump milk every time your child takes formula in order to keep up your milk supply.

You may need to be careful when breastfeeding a baby with a lip tie. Try softening your breast with your baby’s saliva before attempting to latch, and practice proper latching technique so that your baby can connect more fully to your breast.

A lactation consultant can help you think of more ways to make nursing easier for both you as well as your baby.

There are therapy techniques that can help loosen a tight lip and make it easier for babies breastfeed. Sliding your finger along the top of your baby’s lip and practicing loosening the gap between the lip and gumline can gradually improve the mobility of your child’s lip.

Level 1 and 2 lip ties should be left alone. They do not need to be re-examined. If there’s a tongue tie as well as a lip tie restricting your baby’s ability to feed, a pediatrician may advise you to “revise” or “release” them both, even if the lip tie is considered to be Level 1 or Level 2.

Level 3 or Level 4 lip ties may require what’s called a “frenectomy” procedure. This can be done by a pediatrician, or in some cases a pediatric dentist.

A frenectomy removes the membrane that connects the gums to the lips. You can use a laser or sterilized surgical scissor to perform it. La Leche League breastfeeding experts report that this procedure causes very little pain or discomfort to the baby. A lip tie can be re-done without the need for anesthesia.

There haven’t been many studies of lip tie on its own. Studies that examined the success of surgical treatment looked at tongue tie and mouth tie together.

There’s little evidence at this point that a frenectomy for lip tie improves breastfeeding. One 2017 study that involved more than 200 women showed that frenectomy can significantly improve breastfeeding outcomes.

A lip tie can make it difficult to nurse and can cause problems with newborn weight gain. This condition isn’t hard to spot and is simple to treat with the help of your pediatrician and lactation consultant.

Don’t let breastfeeding be an unpleasant experience that causes you pain. Speak with your child’s pediatrician about any concerns you have about nursing or your child’s weight gain.

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