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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding Problems: What is a Lip Tie?

Breastfeeding Problems What is a Lip TieBreastfeeding a newborn can be difficult. It is not something that always comes easily. Many mothers of new babies experience several breastfeeding problems on their journeys through early parenthood. Some of these early issues are attributed to latch issues. Poor latches can lead to cracked nipples, thrush, plugged ducts, etc. Fixing bad latches might be easy. Other times it could be pure determination, like when my son was diagnosed with a lip tie.

What is a lip tie?

A tongue tie is a webbing that exists between the bottom of one’s tongue and the soft palate of the floor of your mouth. A lip tie is a similar webbing, but it exists on the upper lip/gums and unfortunately is not as easy to correct. Most tongue ties can be cut, providing you have the necessary means to do so. But lip ties can sometimes be a more delicate procedure.

Symptoms of Lip Ties

There are lots of ways your baby might adjust to nursing with a lip tie. The symptoms that jumped out at me covered every aspect of breastfeeding. The most common complications of breastfeeding with a  lip tie are as follows:

  • difficulty latching and falling off the breast
  • gumming the nipple
  • gas, reflux, or colic
  • creased, flat, or blanched nipple after feedings
  • discomfort while nursing
  • breast infections

You can spot lip ties easily. A wonderful picture guide to lip ties can be found here.

So what’s this fancy procedure?

Cutting a lip tie the same way you would a tongue tie creates a difficult healing process. Simply cutting it can create scar tissue, and the lip tie can even grow back. Cutting does not also remove any extra tissue, so the child may need future speech therapies or dental work done to correct the teeth.

Dr. Kutlow in Albany, New York has done hundreds of laser revision procedures on children. Laser revision pretty much vaporizes extra tissue and causes little discomfort. Healing is fairly quick and mothers are encouraged to breastfeed right away.  It can be both hard and expensive to find a professional who performs laser revision and travel to them. Mothers who have it done report amazing improvements, so if you’re lucky enough to be able to visit a professional it is highly recommended.

The go-to physicians can be found in a comprehensive list here. I advise you to seek out other parents in your general area. We happen to have two trained frenum laser surgeons in the state of Florida.

Breastfeeding with a Lip Tie

I chose to continue breastfeeding without having any procedure done to correct it. I did take my son to three different local professionals, but only the pediatric dentist took me seriously. Lip tie laser revision is a fairly new discovery in the ways of corrective surgery. The dentist I took my son to recommended gentle stretches to guide the growth of the frenum while simultaneously working on our latch issues.

Latching your baby at the breast with a lip tie intact can be tricky. You have to cup your breast, line up your nipple with baby’s nose, shove your boob in there, and use your thumb to flange his or her upper lip. It sounds difficult, but one mama took excellent photos of the “exaggerated latch”and created a picture guide (scroll down).

It took a few months, but our lip tie issues are very rare. I can easily adjust my son’s latches and we are no longer experiencing pain. I haven’t noticed a difference in his lip tie physically, but being able to enjoy my baby while nursing is totally worth it. Discovering the reason for a majority of our breastfeeding problems and improving them is priceless.

Have you experienced any breastfeeding problems? Does your little one have a lip tie?

Shary Lopez is a late-twenties, nerdy gal living in Tampa Bay. Her family consists of a bearded husband and two children: one eight-year-old daughter and one very adventurous toddler boy. As a childbirth junkie and breastfeeding advocate, Shary tries to lean her family towards natural living while still grasping onto convenience and frugality. You can find more of her writings on Shary's personal blog, Atta Mama. Shary is also on social networking sites such as FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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