Welcoming a newborn into the world is an exciting and joyous experience for any parent. However, some infants may encounter a condition called lip tie, which can cause concerns and challenges during breastfeeding and oral development.
In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of infant lip tie, exploring its causes, symptoms, and available treatment options.
What is Lip Tie?
Lip tie, also known as upper lip tie or labial frenulum, is a condition where the tissue that connects the upper lip to the upper gum (known as the frenulum) is abnormally tight or thickened. This restricted movement can affect an infant’s ability to latch onto the breast properly, leading to breastfeeding difficulties and potential long-term oral health issues if left untreated.
Causes of Infant Lip Tie:
Some possible causes of infant lip tie include:
Lip tie may have a hereditary component, meaning that infants are more likely to have it if their parents or close relatives also have a lip tie. Certain genetic conditions or syndromes can increase the likelihood of lip tie as well.
2.Fetal development and infant lip tie:
Lip tie can occur during fetal development when the tissues that form the upper lip and gum do not separate properly. This can result in an abnormally tight or thickened frenulum.
Some environmental factors during pregnancy or after birth may increase the risk of infant lip tie. These can include maternal tobacco use, alcohol consumption, certain medications, or exposure to toxins.
4.Hormonal influences and infant lip tie:
Hormonal imbalances during pregnancy or in the infant’s body can affect the development of the frenulum, potentially leading to lip tie.
5.Maternal factors and Infant Lip Tie:
Maternal hormonal imbalances during pregnancy or certain medications taken during pregnancy can influence fetal development, including the formation of the frenulum.
There is often a correlation between lip tie and tongue tie. Tongue tie occurs when the tissue connecting the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth (lingual frenulum) is tight or thickened. Infants with both lip tie and tongue tie may experience more significant breastfeeding challenges.
Symptoms of Infant Lip Tie:
Infant lip tie can present with various symptoms, including:
- Difficulty latching: One of the most common signs of infant lip tie is difficulty latching onto the breast during breastfeeding. The tight or thickened frenulum can restrict the movement of the upper lip, making it challenging for the infant to achieve a deep latch and adequately feed.
- Poor weight gain: Due to the difficulties in breastfeeding, infants with lip tie may struggle to gain weight at a healthy rate. Inadequate milk transfer can lead to insufficient nutrition, slower baby growth, and potential weight gain issues.
- Clicking or smacking sounds: The improper positioning and movement of the upper lip caused by lip tie can result in clicking or smacking sounds during breastfeeding. This is due to the inability to maintain a proper seal on the breast.
- Gas and colic: Infants with lip tie may swallow excessive air while feeding, leading to increased gas, baby colic symptoms, and discomfort.
- Chapped or blistered lips: The restricted movement of the upper lip can cause friction and irritation, resulting in chapped or blistered lips.
- Excessive drooling: Infants with lip tie may exhibit increased drooling due to difficulty maintaining a proper seal on the breast or bottle.
- Gagging or choking during feedings: The restricted movement of the upper lip can cause an ineffective latch, leading to gagging or choking episodes during breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
- Prolonged feedings: Due to the inefficient latch and decreased milk transfer, infants with lip tie may take longer to complete feedings.
- Irritability or fussiness during feedings: Infants with lip tie may become frustrated or agitated during feedings due to the challenges they face in latching and extracting milk.
Treatment of Infant Lip Tie:
The appropriate treatment for infant lip tie depends on the severity of the condition and the impact it has on breastfeeding and the infant’s overall well-being. Some treatment options include:
Working with a lactation consultant can help improve breastfeeding techniques and positions to accommodate the lip tie and ensure adequate milk transfer.
Frenotomy or frenectomy
In more severe cases, a healthcare professional, such as a pediatric dentist or ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, may recommend a minor surgical procedure to release or remove the tight frenulum. This procedure, known as frenotomy or frenectomy, is typically quick and performed with local anesthesia.
Treatment of Infant Lip Tie: Rehabilitation exercises
After a frenotomy or frenectomy, rehabilitation exercises may be recommended to help promote proper healing and improve oral motor skills.
Providing gentle oral care, such as keeping the area clean and applying appropriate soothing agents, can help alleviate any discomfort associated with lip tie.
Instead of traditional frenotomy or frenectomy, a laser may be used to release or remove the tight frenulum. Laser revision is a minimally invasive procedure that offers precise cutting and sealing of the tissue, potentially resulting in less bleeding and a faster recovery.
Osteopathic or chiropractic care:
Some parents choose to explore alternative therapies such as osteopathic or chiropractic care to address infant lip tie. These practitioners may use gentle techniques to release tension in the muscles and tissues around the mouth and jaw.
Treatment of Infant Lip Tie: Supportive therapies
In addition to medical interventions, parents may incorporate supportive therapies to enhance oral motor function and promote proper breastfeeding. This can include oral exercises, suck training, or working with a speech therapist or occupational therapist specializing in feeding difficulties.
Infant lip tie is a condition that can impact breastfeeding and oral development in newborns. Early identification and appropriate management of infant lip tie can help overcome breastfeeding challenges and promote healthy oral development. Understanding its causes, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking appropriate treatment options can help address the challenges associated with lip tie and ensure the overall well-being of both the infant and the breastfeeding relationship. Consulting with a healthcare professional experienced in pediatric oral health is essential for a proper evaluation and personalized guidance tailored to your child’s specific needs. By addressing lip tie, parents can ensure the well-being of their child and establish a positive breastfeeding experience.