How to tell if your baby has a tongue or lip tie

baby lip tie

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Have you ever heard of tongue ties or lip ties? I knew I didn’t when I had a newborn baby. I was unfamiliar with what they were and had absolutely no idea my baby had one, let alone was the root of quite a few problems we were experiencing.

Next, I am going to share my story with you and what problems tongue and lip ties can cause and how I dealt with my baby’s procedure and aftercare.

Lip ties

A lip tie is when the muscleless tissue that connects the upper lip to the gum (known as the frenulum) is too tight, too thick or both. Causing restriction to movement and mobility.

Lip ties are ranked in severity from 1-4. Number 4 restricting mouth mobility the most.

Tongue ties

First off, there are two kinds of tongue ties. Postier and anterior. Tongues ties are often classified where the tongue tie is given a grade, 1,2,3,4. These numbers do not refer to the severity of the tie, just simply describing where the tie attaches to the tongue.

Grade 1 and 2 refer to anterior and grades 3 and 4 refer to posterior.

tongue tie and lip tie

Anterior may be known as the more common one, I personally think because it is easy to see. Anterior tongue ties are quite noticeable and usually are checked for once the baby is born so it can be corrected quickly.

Well, what if your baby falls into the other category of posterior? Just like my baby did, and unfortunately I had no idea. Posterior tongue ties are pretty tough to see, therefore they get overlooked all of the time.

What if?

One of the biggest things I was super scared about once having my baby was breastfeeding. I think I spent way too much time overthinking the whole topic.

“What if I don’t produce enough milk?”

“Or what if my baby doesn’t latch well?”

“What if it is too painful?”

The list of “what if’s” went on and on. Fortunately, not producing enough milk was not an issue for me. I could have probably fed the whole neighborhood.

Sadly, I did experience some other roadblocks and my breastfeeding journey wasn’t easy, to say the least.

I knew I was making enough milk and my baby was getting some, but how much was the real question…

As the first couple of weeks went by I could tell my baby definitely wasn’t getting enough milk. He would do marathon nursing sessions to end up wanting to nurse again in 15 or 20 minutes.

He was becoming fussy and frustrated and I quite frankly didn’t know what to do. I met with a lactation specialist, I tried so many tricks; the nipple shield, different holds, latching techniques. Nothing seemed to work.

Was my baby just a lazy nurser? Was something wrong with him?

Since I was producing milk with no problem, I started pumping and offering the bottle. I would attempt to nurse and them after giving that a go for what seemed like forever, I then offered him some pumped milk.

He would drain 3-4 oz like he was starving. This is when I knew he clearly wasn’t getting hardly any from the breast. I juggled this routine for about a week or two.

Nursing, pumping then bottle feeding, repeat.

It was exhausting. Both mentally and physically. Why wouldn’t he just breastfeed like he is supposed to?! Well, this is when I began doing a little research! Suddenly it all started to make sense.

We found the problem!

He had a tongue tie.

This didn’t even cross my mind. I felt so frustrated. If this had been caught at birth maybe I wouldn’t have had all of the problems I was experiencing.

By the time I had figured out the issue, my baby was mostly exclusively bottle fed from pumped milk. I would try breastfeeding at least once a day, but it usually ended in struggle and disappointment, so the bottle became the answer.

I did a ton of research on ties and all of the signs and symptoms were exactly what we were experiencing. Through my research I learned that posterior ties are often missed and not corrected.

I was able to find some local moms that had experienced the same thing and they all expressed the importance of going to a specialist for the issue. Your regular pediatrician just wasn’t going to cut it.

Especially with the posterior tongue ties, you must see a Pediatric Dentist that specializes in ties.

We found out that he had a stage 4 tongue tie and a very tight upper lip tie as well. These were not only the root of breastfeeding troubles but also colic and fussiness.

We were able to get both corrected. Although I wasn’t able to exclusively breastfeed, I started my pumping journey and was able to see the improvements in his bottle feeding and other symptoms we were dealing with.

Symptoms of tongue and lip ties

The most common symptom of a tie is difficulty breastfeeding. This alone encompasses many other symptoms which may include;

For the baby:

  • Unable to latch properly/deeply.
  • Frequently falling off the breast.
  • Lip doesn’t flange around the nipple.
  • Fussiness while nursing.
  • Falling asleep while nursing (although this can be pretty typical with any baby)
  • Acting very fatigued from nursing.
  • Dribbling milk down the side of the mouth while feeding.
  • Digestive issues; gas, colic, reflux.
  • Clicking sound while feeding.
  • Inability to gain weight.

For the mother:

  • Extremely painful to breastfeed.
  • Cracked bleeding nipples
  • Mastitis, or clogged ducts.
  • Milk supply issues dues ineffective removal.

Diagnosing tongue/lip ties

I cannot stress this enough, but it is really important to consult with either a lactation specialist or go to a specialized pediatric dentist. Not all doctors are specialized in diagnosing tongue/lip ties.

I did some research on my end until I found a pediatric dentist I felt comfortable taking my baby to.

Below is a link where you can find a local support group. The link lists each state with a Facebook group so that you can see other mom’s recommendations in your area.

The solution

Even if your baby is feeding ok, it is still probably best to get any tie revised. It could cause other problems down the line such as tooth decay or speech problems.

There are a couple of different ways to go about revising a tongue/lip tie:

  1. Laser treatment.
  2. Scissor method.

It is best to do your own research and then make a decision based on what you think is best for your baby.

In short, the scissor method is quicker than the laser method, but using laser technology provides much more precision and more is effective at removing the whole entire tie.

I opted to go with the laser treatment for my baby. The whole procedure only took a few short minutes. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but my baby did pretty well.

There was some crying once the laser process began but, to be honest, I think it is because he didn’t like being restrained with multiple fingers in his mouth.

Dealing with discomfort

Some babies won’t show any signs of discomfort while others may experience some pain after the procedure. I will share some ways that may help alleviate any soreness.

  • Do skin to skin
  • Nurse or feed the baby right after the procedure to help comfort.
  • Ice the area or offer breastmilk ice pops.
  • Have your baby wear an amber teething necklace to help any inflammation.
  • Administer Arnica Montana (10-30 C) to help with pain and inflammation.
  • Chiropractic work – this may seem totally unrelated but tongue/lip ties can create a lot of tension in the body.

It is best to avoid over the counter pain relievers, especially for your tiny baby. We all know the possible damage they can have on our bodies so I do my best to stay away from them and always offer natural remedies first.

If absolutely necessary, I prefer Ibuprofen over Acetaminophen.

Post-procedure exercises

Your baby’s mouth heals will heal quickly, which is good news. But it also means that you must be diligent on post-procedure exercises. Your dentist should show you how to do these exercises and although they may seem difficult or inconvenient to do, you must be consistent with them to avoid reattaching and the procedure needing to be redone.

Make sure to wash your hands each time before doing any stretches. I found it easiest to lay my baby on a bed propped up on a nursing pillow. The goal is to be able to gently massage the area where the laser was done, to keep the skin from getting tight and reattaching.

Here is a video that I found helpful.

We were instructed to do them every 4 hours for the first few days and then gradually increase the time in between each set of stretches.

As long as you are being fairly consistent for 2- 3 weeks you should have no problem.

I hope some of this information will be a benefit to you. I am so glad I understand tongue/lip ties now. Next time I will be much more prepared for my next baby and will hopefully be able to make my second breastfeeding journey a better one.

Have you had this experience with your baby? I would love to hear YOUR experiences and how you dealt with it. Any tips or tricks you would like to share?

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