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Oral Ties & Breastfeeding

by CJ (follow)

Congratulations if you've recently had a baby. What a momentous step in your life, whether it be your first or your 6th. If you are breastfeeding, I hope it is going exceedingly well for you, if it is, you're lucky.
I don't say that in a manner to be sarcastic or offensive, you are truly lucky. In this day and age we have so many barriers to our breastfeeding journeys, and not all of them are caused by outside influences. In this instance, I'm going to talk about oral ties; that being lip and tongue ties.

Baby breastfeeding
Courtesy of Pixabay

As increasingly common as this issue is, it seems many people, both parents and health professionals, have little knowledge regarding it. I learnt this the hard way with my second. I'd briefly heard of oral ties, but didn't know enough about them, especially not the affect they could have on breastfeeding.
I began to research when I started having issues with my sons latch. I tried time and time again to correct it, but he'd always go back to the curled under top lip and the shallowish latch. Even worse, he'd started to develop silent reflux. I was totally lost, but a bit of research helped a lot.

A lot of people have ties, they do not always cause issues, but often they do. Usually one of the first signs is a shallow latch and a curled under top lip. If this is happening to you, it's probably time to check baby. Lip ties are easier to diagnose than most tongue ties, as they are quite obvious. It is a piece of membrane (the frenelum) that connects the upper lip to the gum line. With a tie, the membrane is lower than it should be, actually on the gum, or wrapping around under it. You check quite simply by pressing a finger under the top lip and gently drawing it up to have a look. If it's on the gum, it's an issue.

As I said above, some tongue ties are a bit more difficult, especially posterior tongue ties. They don't show the usual signs (heart shaped tongue, unable to poke it out etc) and so often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed. In approximately 80% of lip tie cases there is a tongue tie issue. Tongue ties prevent the baby from being able to latch, and suck, effectively. It also means they could be taking in quite a bit of air when sucking, leading to reflux issues.

If you have any suspicions that this is your issue, find an IBCLC (internationally board certified lactation consultant), or, go see your GP.
Sometime you can skip these steps and simply book a consultation with a paediatric dentist, better if it is one that specialises in ties. If they diagnose the ties, they may be able to book you in for the brief frenectomy immediately.
Going this route, however, can set you back more money, so if you are struggling in the financial department, going through your GP may be best, as they can refer you to a ENTS.

The procedure is generally quick, depending on the age bracket your child falls in. Some places will require the child be put under general anaesthetic if they are at an age where they will struggle a lot. My son got his done at 16 weeks old with no anaesthetic, but it will really depend on your provider.
After the procedure, make sure your provider informs you of the stretches you should do to prevent reattachment, this is especially important if they used scissors rather than a laser.

Hopefully this helps some people understand what is going on if they are having some issues. A bad latch can lead to a lot of problems, so it's best to get it sorted as early as possible!
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