Does a Tongue or Lip Tie Affect Breastfeeding?

By on February 2, 2023

Breastfeeding is an important part of your infant’s development and the emotional connection that is built between mom and baby. One thing that can have a surprisingly negative impact on breastfeeding is oral tissues like tongue and lip ties.

What Are Tongue and Lip Ties?

A tongue tie is the band of tissue connecting your baby’s tongue to the bottom of the mouth. An upper lip tie is a band of tissue connecting your baby’s lip to the top of their mouth. These are also called the frenulum. Everyone has tongue and lip ties, but these bands of tissue can sometimes be too thin or thick, both of which can make breastfeeding difficult. Bottle feeding, transitioning to solid foods, and speech production may also be impacted by irregularities in the tongue and lip ties.

Tongue or Lip Ties and Breastfeeding

A lip tie can make it difficult for your baby’s mouth to form a seal around the nipple. A tongue tie makes side-to-side movements like sticking out the tongue or lifting it more difficult. The tongue and lips work together to help your baby breastfeed properly. While the tongue draws in the nipple, the lips latch around it, allowing the baby to effectively suckle from the breast. If a tongue tie is limiting the movements of the tongue or a lip tie is making it difficult to form a proper seal, your baby may not be able to breastfeed effectively. Sometimes, a tongue tie is diagnosed by the pediatrician who examines your baby in the hospital after delivery. They may discuss the option to cut the tie at that time either by themselves or a pediatric ENT specialist. You can also arrange close follow-ups as an outpatient in case the tie causes problems and needs to be fixed.

Symptoms an Infant May Exhibit

If your baby exhibits the following symptoms, it could be a sign that their tethered oral tissues are causing difficulty when breastfeeding:
  • Frustration or frequent crying while nursing
  • Slow weight gain and weight fluctuations
  • Refusal to breastfeed
  • Poor or shallow latch
  • Chewing at the breast or bottle
  • Milk loss that dribbles down the mother’s chest
  • Fatigue during feedings
  • Popping off the breast or bottle
  • Upper lip curled in
  • Audible gulping, gagging, choking, coughing, labored breathing, and hiccups

Symptoms a Mother May Exhibit

Your baby is not the only one who is affected by tethered lip or tongue ties. Keep an eye out for the following signs when breastfeeding if you think your baby is having difficulty nursing:
  • Soreness during or after nursing
  • Dry or cracked nipples
  • Lipstick-shaped nipples
  • Low milk supply
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Pain caused by engorgement, blocked milk ducts, or mastitis

Breastfeeding Support

If breastfeeding has been more difficult than expected, you are not alone. At MFM Associates, you can meet with a member of our expert team who will assess your situation to find the best course of action for you and your baby. We can recommend a lactation counselor or other forms of support. Schedule an appointment today by calling our New York, NY office or filling out an online contact form.

Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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