Newborns are a joy to care for, but it can be nerve-wracking, especially for first-time mothers. When it comes to feeding a newborn, breastfeeding is equally difficult, and a first-time mom may even experience pain at the start. However, if the feeding sessions continue to be painful and difficult, then there may be a lip tie in baby. So, what is a lip tie and how is it treated?
What is a Lip Tie?
Behind the upper lip is a piece of tissue known as the frenulum. However, when the tissue becomes too stiff or too thick, it inhibits free movement of the upper lip which results in the condition known as a lip tie.
This condition is not necessarily dangerous for the baby according to pediatricians, especially if the baby is still gaining the appropriate weight. Lip ties are easy to correct once they are diagnosed early. While the cause for a lip tie has yet to be discovered, some experts believe that genetics plays a part in its occurrence.
The usual indication that there is a lip tie in baby is a mother’s difficulty in breastfeeding. Other symptoms a mother may experience include the following.
- Flat Nipples After a Feeding Session
- Low Supply of Milk
- Painful Breast
- White Stripe on the End of the Nipple
- Uncomfortable Breastfeeding
In babies, the usual symptoms associated with a lip tie include the following.
- Biting or Chewing the Nipple
- Choking or Coughing During Feeding Session
- Clicking Sound During Feeding Session
- Difficulty Latching on to Breast
- Fussiness During Feeding Session
- Gas or Bloating
- Weight Loss or Unsatisfactory Weight Gain
A lip tie in a baby may lead to weight problems. The baby may have difficulties gaining the needed weight, and when this happens, mothers have to turn to supplemental feedings. Formula milk or breast milk is placed in a bottle and is given to the baby.
While there are no other complications associated with a lip tie, some pediatricians claim that a lip tie that remains untreated leads to a higher risk of tooth decay. Moreover, severe lip ties could lead to difficulties in eating finger food or eating from a spoon as stated by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
The Difference from Tongue Tie
Lip ties are quite similar to another condition known as a tongue-tie. In a tongue tie, the tissue located at the bottom of the tongue attaches to the lower surface of the mouth. A tongue-tie may occur at the same time with a lip tie which can make it difficult for a baby to gain weight from breastfeeding. Treatment for a tongue-tie is the same as that of a lip tie.
Classification of Lip Ties
The classification of lip ties describes the anatomical attachment of the frenulum. Parents should understand that the levels or classes of the lip tie do not suggest severity unlike the stages of cancer.
Level 1 Lip Tie
This kind of lip tie rarely, but when it does, there is less to zero visible attachment.
Level 2 Lip Tie
For a class 2 lip tie, the attachment is located along the gum line or the gingiva. However, no restriction in lip movement is noted.
Level 3 Lip Tie
A central restriction is noted for this type of lip tie and is visible at the edge of the gumline.
Level 4 Lip Tie
Much like a class 3 lip tie, there is a central restriction. Moreover, bone notching is visible.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Mothers who immediately notice that their baby has difficulties latching on to the breast must have a breastfeeding evaluation. The doctor may then determine if the cause of the difficulty is a tongue tie or lip tie. Treatment of the lip tie will depend on the level of the condition.
Level 1 and 2
This type of lip tie usually does not need a revision. A therapy technique is instead used to loosen the lip tie to make it easy for the baby to latch on and feed. The mother has to slide a finger along the baby’s top lip. Then, she loosens the gap between the gum line and lip which, in turn, gradually improves the baby’s lip mobility.
Level 3 and 4
Lip ties at this level require a frenectomy. This procedure cuts the membrane that connects the gums to the lips. A pediatric dentist or a pediatrician perform this procedure with the help of either a sterilized surgical scissor or a laser.
Post Treatment Care
In an effort to heal and ease the pain, some oral exercises and post-treatment care are recommended after a frenectomy. Some of these include the following.
- Ask for a pain-relieving ointment or medicine that is safe for the baby if you think that the pain may be extreme.
- A natural way to relieve pain is to breastfeed the baby right after surgery. It is also advised to breastfeed at least once before the surgery.
- Another way to relieve the pain is by allowing the baby to suckle on a clean part of a mother’s skin.
- Organic coconut oil may also be used to alleviate the pain felt by the baby. Make sure to sterilize the hand before rubbing the oil on the affected area. Coconut oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds that not only ease the pain but help the wound heal quickly.
- Reduce pain and inflammation by applying ice on the area.
- Sucking and suckling exercises are also recommended by the doctor post the procedure. Teething instruments may also help in relieving the pain felt by the baby.
Feeding Infant with Lip Tie
Babies with a level 1 or 2 lip tie are fed with a bottle as it is easier than being breastfed. Milk may either be formula or pumped breast milk. However, for mothers who still wish to continue breastfeeding, certain strategies must be practiced. Before attempting the baby to latch on to the breast, soften the breast with the baby’s saliva. Consult with a lactation specialist for other ways to make breastfeeding sessions comfortable for both you and your baby.