Tongue-tie, lip-tie, and breastfeeding

What is tongue-tie (ankyloglossia)?

Tongue-tie is an abnormal attachment of the tongue to the floor of the mouth. It sometimes appears like a web of skin on the underside of the tongue that can restrict the tongue’s normal movement and function. It is present in approximately 4-10% of infants.

 What is lip-tie?

Lip-tie is similar to tongue-tie in that normal movement is prevented by restrictive tissue. With lip-tie the upper lip is unable to flange upward.

How does tongue-tie or lip-tie affect breastfeeding?

Without the ability to flange the upper lip and elevate and extend the tongue some babies will bite down in an effort to create a good lip seal. This can be very uncomfortable for a nursing mother and lead to bruising, bleeding, cracking, and constant soreness of the nipple. The inability of an infant to create and keep an effective latch can also result in insufficient feeding, poor weight gain, and shorter, more frequent feedings or failure to be satisfied even after extended feedings.

Having difficulty breastfeeding can be very frustrating, when instead breastfeeding should be an enjoyable bonding between a mother and her baby.

What can be done to correct tongue-tie and lip-tie?

Dr. Kitley uses a dental laser to remove the tissue, called a frenum or frenulum, that is preventing full movement of the tongue and lip. Benefits to using a laser for this procedure, known as frenectomy, include no bleeding, no need for sutures (stitches), quicker healing, and less soreness afterwards.

What kind of results can I expect?

Your baby will likely feed immediately following the procedure. Most mothers notice a difference right away but it can take several days for a baby to get used to the increased mobility of the lip and tongue.