You might have heard of a tongue tie – the condition that occurs when your baby’s frenum (the fleshy bit underneath the tongue) grows too short and thick. While it’s common knowledge that tongue ties can affect breastfeeding, you may be wondering whether lip ties have the same impact.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a lip tie?
Put your tongue behind your upper lip. Feel that fleshy bit that connects the top lip to your upper gums in front of your front teeth? That’s your labial frenum. Sometimes that frenum seems to grow a little thicker than usual. This is known as lip tie.
Everyone has a labial frenum. Some babies will naturally have a thicker frenum than others but, usually, it grows and becomes thinner with age. That’s why doctors hesitate to label irregular labial frenums as lip ties – at present, there are no diagnostic criteria to distinguish a “problematic” labial frenum from one that’s harmless. So unless your baby’s labial frenum is causing a problem, your doctor is unlikely to consider it an issue or to recommend that you take action.
Do lip ties affect breastfeeding?
The jury’s still out on this one. It’s known that tongue ties restrict the movement of the tongue, and therefore affect a baby’s ability to breastfeed, or take a bottle or a dummy – and, as he gets older, a tongue tie can make it difficult for a child to swallow solids. But doctors haven’t yet agreed on the extent to which lip ties affect breastfeeding babies and their moms.
You may have read that, for a baby to breastfeed properly (so that he gets the most milk and your nipples suffer the least damage), both lips need to be flanged out (as if your baby is making a square shape with his mouth). The good news is that it’s only the lower lip that needs to flange out. Even if the upper lip remains in a neutral position, your little one will still be able to breastfeed. So even if your baby does have a lip tie, he can still get all the nutrients and antibodies from your breast milk, and your milk production won’t be affected.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.