What is Lip Tie?
In order for a baby to breast feed properly so that it gets all the nutrition it is important for the baby to be able to cover the entire nipple with their lips so that the nipples are entirely in their mouth. For this, it is vital that the upper lip provides the support so that the baby can not only cover the nipple but is able to lock it completely. This is normally the case; however, in some babies the labial frenulum which is a tissue that attaches the upper lip to the gums is very short and tight. This makes it tough for the baby to move the upper lip making it difficult for them to close their lips when breastfeeding. This is what is termed as a Lip Tie.[1,2,3]
Lip Tie condition can be easily observed in babies by the parents and caregivers when feeding them. Lip Tie is not dangerous or a sign of a serious medical condition. In fact, if Lip Tie is not uncomfortable for the baby and he or she is able to feed properly without any problems then there is no need to treat it.[1,2,3]
The best way to identify a Lip Tie is by lifting the center of the upper lip. There is a band of tissue between the lip and the gums. In cases of Lip Tie, lifting the upper lip will be difficult.[1,2,3] This article highlights some of the symptoms and treatment options for Lip Tie.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lip Tie?
The primary symptom of Lip Tie is difficulty with breastfeeding. However, there are some experts that do not agree with this theory. There are many lactation experts that follow the classification laid out by Dr. Lawrence Kotlow. However, a detailed review done on this form of classification as to what constitutes a Lip Tie laid out by Dr. Kotlow revealed that this system did not produce the same diagnosis among different experts.
There may be varied opinions among healthcare providers as what constitutes a Lip Tie and what does not. Some babies may have symptoms associated with Lip Tie while others may not show any symptoms at all. Additionally, Lip Tie may not be the only reason for a baby having difficulty breastfeeding and if a baby has Lip Tie that does not mean that the feeding difficulties are caused by it and nothing else.
However, some of the symptoms that can be seen in babies with Lip Tie include:
- Tight labial frenulum
- Pain and discomfort with breastfeeding
- Poor weight gain
- Baby being fussy and irritating especially when feeding
- Baby wanting to feed frequently due to inadequate milk intake
- Baby with Lip Tie will feel happy when feeding from a bottle rather than breastfeed.
It should however be noted that Lip Tie is not the only condition that can cause these symptoms. Another condition called tongue tie can also cause similar symptoms. Thus an accurate diagnosis is necessary.
What Are The Treatment Options For Lip Tie?
Before embarking on a medical procedure to treat Lip Tie, it is recommended to consult with a lactation expert to have a second opinion about resolving the feeding issues of the baby. The experts may find better ways to deal with the situation and may even give possible solutions to tackle the problem.
However, if a female who has a baby with Lip Tie and wants to seek treatment for it then there are a few options available. These include feeding the baby with a bottle instead of breastfeeding. The second option available is a Lip Tie revision procedure. This surgery involves excision of a small piece of tissue from the labial frenulum to loosen it. This can be done either anesthetically with a scalpel or scissors or using laser beams.
However, there are some risks involved with using laser. The beams may cause burns on the sensitive skin of the baby and thus this procedure is not recommended for newborns. Additionally, this procedure is quite expensive and not many people can afford it.
Furthermore, there is little data in the literature in the form of evidence that laser procedure improves the breastfeeding ability of a baby and also Lip Tie is a condition that may even recur after some time despite treatment. If someone does not want invasive treatments for Lip Tie may have to change their way of breastfeeding the baby.
How To Breastfeed A Baby With A Lip Tie?
The following methods are quite beneficial in improving breastfeeding in babies with Lip Tie.
Frequent Feeding: This strategy ensures that the baby is fed enough without any problems. It also ensures that the breasts do not become hard which will make it difficult for the baby to suck milk.
The baby’s chin should be facing down while feeding. This ensures that the baby is able to form a secure and complete latch around the nipples despite Lip Tie.
Squeezing the breasts around the nipple makes it easier for the baby to form a latch and feed without discomfort.
If the baby is not able to extract milk from the nipple due to Lip Tie then one can express milk using hands or through a pump. This makes it easier for the baby to feed.
With regard to the outlook for babies with Lip Tie, it is quite a common condition and in most cases does not require treatments if alternate strategies are adopted for feeding the baby. Treatment should only be considered if the baby has trouble breastfeeding or is having pain or discomfort due to the condition.[1,2,3]
If other alternate measures are not effective then a revision procedure may have to be done to treat Lip Tie, the effectiveness of which is still questionable. It is always beneficial to consult a lactation expert in case if someone has a baby with breastfeeding problems and may be having Lip Tie.[1,2,3]