Breastfeeding Issues: What You Need to Know About Tongue and Lip Tie in Babies

Breastfeeding can be the most natural thing in the world, but it might not be the case for some moms. While a number of moms quickly get into the breastfeeding stride with their babies, there are also a number of moms who might encounter a number of issues in their breastfeeding journey. One such issue is tongue or lip-tie.

What is tongue or lip-tie?

Tongue or lip-ties occur in babies when the movement of their lips or tongues are restricted because of too tight frenula. It must be noted that everyone has frenula — a membrane that can be found attaching our tongue to our lower jaw’s floor and on our upper lip close to our upper gumline. The problem occurs in how the tongue and upper lip function in relation to the frenula. When the frenulum in either the tongue or the upper lip is too tight in a baby, it tethers and thereby restricts the movement of the tongue to the mouth’s base and the upper lip into the upper gumline. This then results in an impaired mobility of the baby’s tongue and lips, so he cannot move both and latch properly. Most babies who have lip-ties almost always have tongue-ties as well.

Pediatricians typically check for one or both during a baby’s wellness checkup, but they can only check the structure. Tongue and lip-ties are not just about the structure, but are also primarily about function — so no one is more qualified then us moms to determine if our baby’s latch feels “off.” If your gut feeling is telling you that something doesn’t feel right about your baby’s latch, then here are a few tips to determine if your baby has a tongue or lip-tie.

What are the symptoms of tongue or lip-tie in babies?

Your baby might have a tongue or lip-tie if you and your baby have/encounter the following symptoms/issues:

For moms:

  • Creased/flat/blanched nipple after feedings
  • Cracked/blistered/bleeding nipples
  • Low milk supply
  • Discomfort while nursing
  • Plugged ducts or white stripe across the nipple
  • Thrush/mastitis
  • Sleep deprivation brought about by frequent night feedings

For babies:

  • Difficulty in latching on or falls off the breast easily
  • Chews the nipple while feeding
  • Inability to hold a pacifier or a bottle
  • Gassy and reflux
  • Fussy or colicky
  • Coughing, choking, gulping, or squeaking while feeding
  • Poor weight gain
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inability to fully drain the breast
  • Choking on milk or taking a break while feeding to gasp for air
  • Falling asleep during feedings then nursing again a short while later
  • Extended nursing episodes
  • Clicking noises while nursing
  • Popping on and off the breast often
  • Biting
  • Sleep deprivation

Other problems associated with tongue and lip-ties:

  • Early weaning
  • Tooth decay especially in the front teeth, as improper tongue mobility might prevent babies from effectively cleaning their mouth
  • Speech difficulties
  • Gap between teeth and/or jaw issues

My baby and I have encountered a few of these issues, how do I confirm if he has tongue or lip-tie?

If you have encountered one or more of the aforementioned symptoms, then you can examine and check your baby’s tongue to confirm.

To start, position your baby in your lap with his head facing in the same direction as yours, and his feet facing away from you. Then, gently pry his mouth open and check his tongue.

What is the treatment for tongue/lip-tie?

The best person to confirm if your baby really has tongue or lip tie is a Dentist, ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat Doctor), Oral Surgeon, or your Pediatrician. Any of these professionals can do the revision procedure on your baby — wherein the tongue or lip-tie is released with the use of either a scalpel or scissors.

References: Breastfeeding USA, Mommypotamus, Feed the Baby LLC

*Originally published in

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