Breastfeeding with a Lip or Tongue Tie

Before and directly after my daughters lip revision

Both of my babies being born with lip AND tongue ties is one of the things I was least prepared for in motherhood. I knew nothing about how common these were, or what a serious problem they impose on your attempts to breastfeed. I want to take a moment to address all the mamas out there just finding out their babies struggle with this, or mamas-to-be that should be informed on potential breastfeeding obstacles like this!

A lip and tongue tie are conditions that cause the skin of the upper lip and underneath the tongue to have limited movement.

I knew my first baby had troubles latching but I didn’t know what those reasons were until she was 5 months old and diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie. Her lip was much more severe than her tongue so we made the decision to revise it, and she breastfed perfectly after that!

If I could go back in time and have knowledge of this problem, it could have saved us months of stress, feedings with a nipple shield, and the gradual decline in weight my baby had from not eating well enough.

The second time around our tongue tied girl is a little bit different and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

We have (for now) decided not to revise our second daughter’s tongue tie.

Our reasons for this decision are that a) this is procedure that comes with pain and potential risks and b) she is breastfeeding and gaining weight so its affect on her is not severe.

So what are some things that can help if this is a decision you’ve made? Here are a few of the things that have really helped me in being successful while breastfeeding my lip and tongue tied baby.

  1. Become familiar with what a perfect latch is, and aware of the latch your baby is receiving at every feed. Most moms can just put their baby near their chest and let the baby do all the work because latching is not an issue for them. But with a lip/tongue tied baby YOU will have to help do that work. A good latch involves a wide open mouth, flanged out lips, and their chin against you. This perfect latch will not come naturally to your baby. This is of course the single greatest obstacle of a lip/tongue tied baby. Therefore, it is extremely important that you become familiar with a good latch and get as close as possible to it at every feeding.
  2. Do not be afraid to pull baby off and reattempt the latch when something is off. A bad latch can lead to a vast array of problems such as, pain or chapping of your nipples and too much air intake creating gas bubbles for your baby. That is why if baby is showing signs of a bad latch- do not be afraid to immediately remove them and reattach. A few signs of a bad latch- milk leaking, baby making a clicking noise, or no swallowing noise.
  3. Combat the milk leakage with extra burp cloths. Sometimes your baby may need a little extra help in getting their latch right. You may be soaking your bra with the milk dripping out in between that latching/unlatching and repositioning. For this reason I bring two burp cloths with me to every feeding- one to tuck into my bra underneath baby, and one to actually burp her on.
  4. Find the angle your baby finds easiest. My first girl did best with her latch the more perpendicular she was to me. I tried to cradle her in more of a sitting on my lap position to encourage the good latch she gets this way. So try moving around, try different holds or positions and use the support of a nursing pillow!
  5. Keep up your milk supply! A low supply can mean a slow let down of milk. While your baby is waiting for let down, their latch can become shallow and they may pull away getting frustrated. Your baby’s lip/tongue tie is already frustrating in their attempts to eat. Attempting to get a frustrated baby to latch is much more difficult than a relaxed baby. Make the milk more abundant and easily accessible to them so they don’t have to work harder than they already have to for it!

Here is a link to some really genuinely good tasting lactation cookies that I used to help boost my supply, for any mamas in need of a boost!

Hang in there mamas! If breastfeeding your lip/tongue tied baby is your goal, don’t give up. You aren’t alone in this and you can do it!

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