The first time you notice that there might be an issue with a lip tie is when your infant has a problem latching on during breastfeeding. You put the baby’s lips in the position to feed, but five seconds later, he or she flips the lip back, you lose the latch-on, and both of you are frustrated. Here’s a guide to lip tie baby issues and some ideas about what to do.
What is an upper lip tie?
Take your tongue and poke high up between your front teeth and outer lip. You probably feel a string-like connective tissue linking your upper lip and jaw. That tissue is officially called a frenulum, and in babies with upper lip tie, or ULT, the frenulum is too tight. The baby’s ability to move the upper lip is restricted, which can cause significant problems with breastfeeding because the upper lip is “tied” down.
Why does an upper lip tie interfere with breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding babies have to nurse in a “fish lips” position: The inner part of the lips have to be pressed against the nipple for the baby to latch and get milk. The tight frenulum makes this position very uncomfortable for the baby’s upper lip, so when they move their lip back, the suction is broken. New moms won’t always know what’s wrong and might simply figure that they just can’t get the hang of breastfeeding. That’s why it’s often important to see a lactation consultant.
How do you tell if your baby has upper lip tie?
In addition to trouble breastfeeding, there are two important signs of lip tie. First, when you flip your baby’s front lip back, does it crease? Next, does the skin of the upper lip look pale when you flip it up? If so, it’s probably time for a medical follow-up. Lip tie in a baby can sometimes go undiagnosed unless your pediatrician is familiar with common lactation issues.
Is treatment needed for lip tie?
Whether you get treatment depends on your situation. If the frenulum isn’t interfering with latching on, and you have a great breastfeeding routine, then there’s no problem. On the other hand, medical intervention may be necessary if the ULT is making it difficult for your baby to latch on and get enough milk.
Although ULT issues can be frustrating, the good news is that they are very treatable. Lactation consultants and doctors can always provide helpful insight into feeding issues, and if ULT is to blame, a skilled pediatrician should be able to take care of the issue quickly.