How To Spot A Lip Tie In Your Infant

A lip tie occurs in babies when the piece of tissue connecting the upper lip to the gums is too thick or tight, as explained by Healthline. This tissue is called the frenulum, and it can sometimes restrict the movement of the upper lip, making it difficult for an infant to properly latch and breastfeed. The frenulum is a normal part of the anatomy of the mouth, but in some cases, it can be too tight or too thick, causing a lip tie. 

Lip ties are more common in newborns and infants than in older children, though it's possible to develop one even in adulthood, according to Nia Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics. Though many lip ties are mild and cause no issues, more severe lip ties can cause problems not only with breastfeeding, but also as the child gets older. For instance, the condition might make it harder for the child to eat when they begin solid foods, especially when using a spoon or munching on finger foods. For this reason, it is important to be aware of all the vital signs of a lip tie to ensure the issue is well-managed in due course.

How to tell if your baby has a lip tie

According to Medical News Today, the best way to identify a lip tie is by simply lifting the center of your baby's lip. If the lip doesn't lift freely and easily, that can indicate that the frenulum — the band connecting the lip to the gums — is too tight. You might also notice that your baby has difficulty latching during breastfeeding. According to WebMD, this can manifest as a clicking sound during breastfeeding, and you may also notice your baby spitting or choking on milk. Other common signs include frequent feeding (or cluster feeding), inefficient weight gain (due to the baby's inability to get a sufficient amount of milk), and the development of jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

When a baby with a lip tie is unable to latch properly, it may also cause discomfort to the mother, including nipple pain and possibly engorged breasts or clogged ducts if the baby is not able to extract enough milk during feedings. If you notice any of these signs, it's best to consult with a pediatrician who can perform a physical exam and diagnose it.

How to manage the condition

Feeding a baby with a lip tie can require some adjustments and patience. In some cases, bottle feeding may be a better option for babies with a lip tie, says Healthline. This might be particularly useful if breastfeeding is causing you pain or discomfort or if your baby is not getting enough milk.

Fortunately, a lip tie is a treatable condition. A simple procedure known as a frenotomy or frenectomy can release the frenulum and improve the baby's ability to latch and breastfeed, per WebMD. It involves cutting the frenulum to release the attachment between the upper lip and gum. A dentist typically performs the procedure, and it takes a few minutes. After the procedure, your baby may be able to breastfeed more effectively. As your baby is recovering from the procedure, you will also have to regularly stretch and gently massage the frenulum area to prevent it from healing too tightly.

If your baby is still having difficulty latching, it helps to speak with a lactation consultant. They can evaluate the baby's latch and provide guidance on techniques and positions that may be helpful.