A lip tie is a condition related to the upper lip, which prohibits it from moving freely due to its thickness or stiffness. When the membranes behind the upper lip (known as the frenulum) overgrow, movement becomes inhibited.
A lip tie is treatable in a similar way that tongue ties are treatable: a frenectomy neatly severs the membrane connecting the lip to the gums. The procedure can be performed using a laser or a sterilized surgical scissor. Any abnormality in the mouth, be it the tongue or lip, can affect an infant’s ability to breastfeed, gain weight, and eventually speak, so correcting them are important.
Though neither condition has been studied heavily, doctors believe lip tie and tongue tie are both slight genetic disorders.
Difficulty breastfeeding or bottle feeding is the most common indication of the condition. The symptoms include:
- problems latching on to the breast
- difficulty breathing during feeding
- making a clicking sound while nursing
- falling asleep often during nursing
- acting extremely fatigued by nursing
- slow weight gain or lack of weight gain
The most common complication from a lip tie is trouble gaining weight for the baby. Mothers may need to supplement with formula or bottles if that’s easier for baby to latch. If a severe lip tie is never corrected, babies may have trouble using a spoon, eating finger foods, or developing healthy teeth.
Diagnosis comes down to understanding if the upper lip’s movement is restricted. All humans have frenulums connecting their upper lip to their gums. But if the lips aren’t able to move because the membrane is rigid or tight, your child may have a lip tie.
How to feed a baby with a lip tie
Babies with lip ties may have an easier time drinking from a bottle than latching to a nipple. Pumping breast milk into a bottle, or using formula if necessary, will keep baby’s nutrition on track while a pediatrician can monitor their upper lip growth.
To breastfeed a baby with a lip tie, you may have to be a little creative. You can try softening your breast with your baby’s saliva before attempting to latch, which may make it easier to latch. You should also practice proper latching technique so that your baby can connect more fully to your breast.
Sliding your finger along the top of your baby’s inner lip and practicing loosening the gap between the lip and gums can gradually improve the mobility of your child’s mouth.