Breastfeeding is a worthy goal that has many benefits for mom and baby. It can be a frustrating venture, however, when things don’t go smoothly. One factor that may hinder breastfeeding success is a lip and/or tongue tie. A lip tie will prevent proper flaring of the upper lip necessary to achieve a good latch. A tongue tie can also prevent a proper latch and impact the baby’s ability to swallow properly. Often, a clicking sound is heard as the baby loses the latch. The baby with a lip or tongue tie may have difficulty immediately after birth or may be able to compensate at first when mom’s milk ejection reflex is strongest but have more difficulty as time goes on. During feeding, the baby tends to swallow a lot of air, causing gas and discomfort for the baby. The baby may or may not do better with a bottle.
Tongue and lip ties run in families and are more prevalent in boys. The problem is identified by a discussion of symptoms with mom and an examination of the baby. Appearance and function of the lip and tongue are taken in consideration. Some lactation specialists, pediatricians, ENT physicians, and dentists are familiar with this issue and many are not. The procedure is relatively quick with very low risk. First, the area is numbed with a few drops of anesthesia. Topical anesthetic gel is not used, as it is with children and adults, because it contains benzocaine. Benzocaine can cause a rare, but serious side effect when used on infants. As with so many of our procedures, we use a laser. The laser is an excellent choice for this procedure because it is kind to the tissue, does not produce scarring, sterilizes, and cuts precisely, making the procedure very safe.
Following the procedure, it is vital that stretching exercises are done several times a day. This is very important to prevent the tissue from reattaching back to its original tie. Baby and mom will return to check their progress. Moms are encouraged to continue working with their lactation specialist.