A lip tie, though not painful or dangerous, can affect the quality of life of your baby. It can also make breastfeeding a frustrating experience for both the mother and the baby. A lip tie restricts the full movement of the upper lip of the baby, which can make it difficult for the baby to feed and talk. Fortunately, it can be fixed, especially if it is addressed early in life.
What Is a Lip Tie?
A lip tie is a thick piece of muscleless tissue that connects the upper lip to the upper gums making any movement of the lip particularly hard. It restricts the movement due to its thickness or tightness, or both. This condition is usually misdiagnosed and can lead to early weaning of your baby.
How Common Is It?
A lip tie is similar to a tongue tie, a condition where there is a thick band of tissue connecting the bottom of the baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth. A tongue tie along with lip tie can make breastfeeding difficult for babies, and sometimes, they may have trouble gaining weight. The condition of lip ties is less common as compared to tongue ties. If your baby has one type of condition, it does not mean that the other condition will also exist. A lip tie isn’t dangerous if your baby is gaining weight as per his age.
What Are the Causes of Lip Tie in Babies?
There is no one particular cause for the occurrence of lip tie in babies. Simply put, some babies are born with a lip tie while others are not. The condition of a lip tie may develop within the womb itself. While most experts think that this might be attributed solely to genetics, this theory has never been proved.
If a Baby Has a Lip Tie, Does It Mean He Will Also Have a Tongue Tie?
There is no evidence to show that a baby with a lip tie will have a tongue tie also. In fact, both areas in the baby develop at different times in the womb and through different processes. The association between these two conditions probably stems from the fact that a baby will try to overcompensate for the restrictive movement caused by one condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Lip Tie
A lip tie is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions. Since its occurrence is rare and most of its symptoms are similar to those of other, lip ties usually slip under the radar. However, this is where you need to trust your instinct and make note of all the signs you see in your baby. With a lip tie, not only will your baby show symptoms, even you will feel and notice signs:
Some of the signs of a lip tie that you might observe in your are given below:
- Poor latching
- Sucking strongly as he tries to create a vacuum
- Clicking sound when nursing
- Inadequate milk transfer
- Unsatisfactory weight gain or loss
- Gas and reflux
- Fussiness and moving away from the breast
- Coughing, choking, or gulping when feeding
- Chewing or biting the nipple
Some signs that moms may experience are given as follows:
- Uncomfortable feeding sessions
- Low milk supply
- Creases or flat nipples after feeding
- White stripe on the nipple end
- Plugged ducts
- Breast pain
How Does a Lip Tie Look Like?
Lip ties can be classified into four different types as per their severity.
- Class one of lip ties has no significant attachment.
- Class two lip ties are attached primarily to the gums.
- Class three lip ties are attached to the area where teeth grow in future.
- Class four lip ties are the most severe and are attached all the way to the palate of the mouth.
What Problems Do Babies With Lip Tie Face?
Babies with a lip tie can face a lot of problems in everyday life. Here are a few problems they may face.
- They can choke while being fed or sputter their milk. If they do this daily, it might lead to malnutrition in them.
- They can struggle to gain weight.
- They are more susceptible to diseases like jaundice.
- They are far more likely to become colicky.
- They may struggle to latch onto the nipple.
- They will also feed less which can stunt their development.
- They may likely need to be fed in clusters.
How Does Lip Tie Affect Breastfeeding?
If you are breastfeeding your little one and he has a lip tie, you must know that breastfeeding him will be extremely difficult for you. As your baby won’t be able to latch onto the breast because of the lip, he may not get sufficient nutrition per feed. Hence, you will have to make a frequent feeding schedule for your baby. However, this frequent feeding schedule can result in sore nipples. You may also experience pain, if your baby puts extra pressure on your nipples and finds it difficult to latch onto your breast properly. He might be slightly more malnourished than a bottle-fed lip tie baby. Specialists usually recommend either a lip tie reversal or opting for bottle feeding to feed a baby with a lip tie. If your baby has a lip tie, then you may have distorted nipples, have issues with milk supply, or even develop blocked feeding ducts or diseases like mastitis.
How Is a Lip Tie Diagnosed?
A lip tie is diagnosed through a physical exam. Most paediatricians can diagnose a lip tie based on its appearance and you can talk to your baby’s paediatrician. But the ideal option would be consulting a lactation specialist. You can also visit an orthodontist who specialises in infant dentistry for the diagnosis of a lip tie and its severity.
How Is a Lip Tie Treated?
Lip tie is treated by observing the seriousness of its condition and by checking if the baby’s feeding schedule is affected. Most doctors advice against further treatments for lip tie at an early age if the baby can breastfeed normally. Doctors commonly recommend a reversal of lip tie once the baby starts teething and his teeth develop. However, if your baby’s feeding is seriously impaired, you can then opt for lip tie reversal surgery before his teeth develop. The procedure to reverse lip tie is actually quite simple and takes only a few minutes to complete.
What Happens During the Lip Tie Reversal Procedure?
If your baby’s doctor recommends a lip tie surgery, there is no need to panic, as the surgery is quite simple and quick. During the surgery, you will need to sit on a dentist’s chair and hold your baby in your arms. The doctor will then apply an infant friendly anaesthetic or numbing agent in the baby’s mouth. After approximately 30 seconds, he will use a precision laser to cut the lip tie and your baby will be fine. Your bundle of joy might cry because of the pain – but if your baby is not gaining weight, you should opt for this surgery. Also, remember to consult the doctor about post-op care for pain relief.
Post Treatment Care
There are a number of oral exercises that can ease the pain to an extent and heal your baby. Here are a few things you need to do post-procedure.
If you are afraid that the pain is going to be extreme, you can ask the doctor to prescribe a pain-relieving medicine or ointment that is safe for a child.
It is critical that you breastfeed your baby once before the procedure and once immediately after it as well. Breastfeeding immediately after the surgery is a natural way to relieve any pain your little one faces.
Increase skin to skin with your baby. You can opt for kangaroo care for your baby or let him suckle on your shoulders or palms. Hold him in your arms and give him access to a clean part of your skin – your baby will suckle on your skin for pain relief too.
In case the post-procedure pain seems unbearable for your child and he becomes fussy or cries incessantly, then you can give him paracetamol or ibuprofen after checking with your baby’s doctor.
Wash your hands well and wipe them. Then take some organic coconut oil in your hands and rub it on the affected area; coconut oil will soothe the inflammation and ease the pain. It also helps your little one heal faster.
You can also use an ice cube on the affected area. Ice will numb the area and lower the inflammation.
Keep teething toys in hand to help your baby develop good teething habits – these toys will also help with pain relief.
Certain suckle exercises and sucking techniques for the baby can be tried after the procedure. You should make your baby try the doctor-recommended techniques.
When to Consult a Doctor
Take your baby to a doctor if you notice that your baby feeds irregularly. There is no harm in getting your baby examined once if you notice any lip tie symptoms.
1. Can a Lip Tie Cause Speech Problems in a Child?
Speech problems due to lip tie are extremely rare and are only possible if the condition is very severe. You need not worry – consult your doctor for further information about your child’s case specifically.
2. Can Lip Tie Be a Reason for Tooth Decay?
In general, babies with a lip tie don’t get proper oral care because of the condition itself. However, this condition doesn’t cause tooth decay. As a parent, you might have to maintain proper oral hygiene, or it could eventually lead to tooth decay.
Remember, lip tie is not a condition with dangerous implications and it can be corrected easily. Don’t try treating the condition at home or cutting your baby’s lip to fix it yourself. Follow your doctor’s instructions and trust him, he will ensure your child is cared for in the best way possible.