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Why is a tongue-tie a problem for breastfeeding?

A baby needs to be able to cup the breast with his tongue to be able to remove milk from the breast well. If the tongue is anchored to the floor of the mouth, the baby cannot do this as well. The baby may not be able to open his mouth wide enough to take in a full mouthful of breast tissue. This can result in ‘nipple-feeding’ because the nipple is not drawn far enough back in the baby’s mouth and constantly rubs against the baby’s hard palate as he feeds. As a result, the mother is likely to suffer nipple trauma.

There are many signs that a baby’s tongue-tie is causing problems with breastfeeding, but you don’t have to have all of them:

  • nipple pain and damage
  • the nipple looks flattened after breastfeeding
  • you can see a compression/stripe mark on the nipple at the end of a breastfeed
  • the baby keeps losing suction while feeding and sucks in air
  • the baby makes a clicking sound when feeding
  • the baby fails to gain weight
  • the baby cannot poke his tongue out beyond his gum or lips
  • his tongue cannot move sideways
  • the tip of his tongue may be notched or heart-shaped when he cries
  • he may readily gag
  • the tip may look flat or square instead of pointed.

Why is an upper lip-tie a problem for breastfeeding?

If a baby has an upper lip-tie, he is not able to flange his lips out over the breast to obtain a good seal. He may slip off the breast easily, as he gets tired. A good seal is important if he is to breastfeed as effectively.

Treatment for tongue-tie or upper-lip tie

If it is deemed that a tongue-tie or upper-lip tie is interfering with breastfeeding, then release of the tight frenulum can improve the baby's ability to breastfeed.

Snipping a tight frenulum in young babies is a simple procedure that takes only a second or two. The procedure is performed with our Waterlase MD - no anesthetic needed! The baby usually breastfeeds straight after the procedure. The mother will often notice a difference in how the baby breastfeeds, but it can take up to 2–3 weeks for a complete improvement to be made. Breastfeeding straight away also helps to stop any slight bleeding, distracts the baby from any discomfort and acts as an analgesic.

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