Lip Ties, Tongue Ties, and Breastfeeding

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My Experience with Lip and Tongue Ties

My son had trouble from the beginning latching on to breastfeed. When my milk came in three days after he was born, he was really struggling because my breasts were so full. (That can be difficult for any newborn even without ties).

I had a lactation consultant out and she watched us through the feeding and gave us some tips and gave us an A+. I guess because I had studied so much, I must have been compensating for any issues that were happening, because the outward perception was we were doing great.

By day five, I knew we were having a problem because he was hungry and frustrated but he wouldn’t eat. The LC had mentioned a possible lip tie, but I didn’t know what that was so it didn’t click for me that he had a birth defect. I just thought I wasn’t doing something right. On top of that, my nipples hurt. They were cracked and bleeding. (To read about those first days breastfeeding my son, click here.)

We went in for his check ups and he wasn’t gaining weight at all, so we started supplementing and went back to the LC. Now that he was a little older she said the tie wasn’t stretching and recommended we have it released. His tongue also looked fine, but as we found out at the pediatric dentist, he had a posterior tongue tie in addition to the lip tie.

When my son was just three weeks old we had both his lip tie and tongue tie revised with a surgery called a frenectomy.

What are Tongue Ties and How Do They Affect Breastfeeding?

I didn’t know anything about ties, so hopefully this will enlighten any of our readers. Basically, all over our bodies we have various frenulum, which is a small fold of tissue that prevents an organ in the body from moving too far. This tissue in my son’s upper lip and under his tongue were too restrictive, and both can cause problems with feeding, especially breastfeeding, (although it can cause issues with bottle feeding as well).

A tongue tie hinders the up-and-down motion of the tongue, which affects breastfeeding in that it is directly linked to low milk supply because there is not enough milk extracted from the breast.

With a posterior tongue-tie, the tongue does not extend over the gum, which causes the tongue to chew, or as I like to call it, “chomp” on the nipple.

How Do Lip Ties Affect Breastfeeding?

With a lip tie, the baby is unable to latch effectively. This is because the lip is hindered from flanging outward during a feeding. The mouth is unable to open wide and a smaller mouth opening means a shallower latch. So all the pain I was feeling was a combination of the tongue chewing on my nipple and my son sliding his latch down to just nurse on the nipple.

When breastfeeding correctly, you want a deep latch that includes the areola as well as the nipple. The lips form a much more effective seal when it is formed with the mucous membrane inside the lip, rather than the dry part of the outward lip. (This latch is correct, and thus pain-free!)

These ties were causing pain for me and beginning to cause me to have low milk supply because my son wasn’t able to latch properly or extract enough milk. In turn, this caused him to not gain weight and get labeled FTT.

Surgery to Release the Ties

The out-patient surgery, (or surgeries I should say), were very quick. Of course, before the surgery I was extremely emotional (being just three weeks postpartum, plus all we had been through with his sluggish weight gain and the crazy feeding routine we were following to get him to gain). It was the first time our son had ever been out of sight of either my husband or me.

Our pediatric dentist was  recommended to us by my lactation consultant and he was such a kind and reassuring doctor. He was great with our tiny son and with us. When I inevitably started the waterworks, he said gently, “It’ll be OK mom.”

So they took my son into the other room and he had the laser surgery to remove both ties. It took less than 15 minutes. Due to the fact it was a laser surgery, there was no bleeding and very little inflammation. We were told we could give him Tylenol and use a numbing agent if needed. The only post-op care he needed, besides the mild pain relief, was very simple. We had to run our finger over the wounds both under his lip and under his tongue to keep the frenulum from reattaching.

We were also advised not to use coconut oil to aid in achieving a deeper latch, because it was such an effective healing agent.

Did Releasing the Ties Aid Breastfeeding?

The short answer is, yes. Some people see results right away and for others it takes time. We fell into the latter category. I believe that in those three weeks my son hadn’t been building the muscles he needed to breastfeed, so he had a lot of weaknesses in his mouth and jaw. We saw a speech pathologist to help strengthen these weaknesses. The release of both the lip and tongue tie, coupled with the help of the speech pathologist did lead to my son’s exclusively breastfeeding before he turned 3 months old.

Why Go Through All the Trouble to Breastfeed?

It was very important to both my husband and to me that I breastfeed my son. There are so many incredible benefits to breastfeeding a baby.

Also, lip and tongue ties can lead to other issues besides early feeding struggles, to include:

  • trouble with feeding an older baby or toddler solids,
  • speech challenges, and
  • dental problems.

So although breastfeeding was our main catalyst for having the ties released, we wanted to help our son avoid additional challenges later on as well.

For more information about the benefits of breastfeeding, read 15 Amazing Benefits of Breastfeeding.

Tell Us About Your Experience and Leave a Comment Below!

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4: 6-7

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