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How Tongue Tie and Upper Lip Tie can Affect Breastfeeding and Infant Acid Reflux

How Tongue Tie and Upper Lip Tie can Affect Breastfeeding and Infant Acid Reflux

Few months ago I attended an interesting seminar regarding frenum attachments and their effect on breastfeeding. By now, we are all aware of the positive aspects of breastfeeding for both infants and mothers. As an expecting mother myself, I found the seminar to be quite enlightening and hope to share some information with all mothers and mother-to-be’s.

Successful breastfeeding is dependent upon the infant’s ability to correctly latch onto a mother’s breast. If an infant is born with oral soft tissue abnormalities such as tongue-tie or lip-tie, breastfeeding may become challenging or impossible1. Often the attachment of the upper lip to the upper gum tissue is overlooked and undiagnosed during the evaluation of an infant. Depending on the location and severity of attachment, this “lip-tie” can affect an infant’s latch.

Moreover, if an excessive amount of air reaches the stomach due to a poor latch, abdominal distension, belching, and flatulence often develop. Aerophagia—excessive swallowing of air during feeding—can be a result of both a lip-tie and tongue-tie. Some studies have been done regarding this; after revision of both the lip and tongue-ties, the reflux symptoms were significantly reduced, eliminating the need for medications2. These studies found that infants presenting with signs of Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) should be carefully evaluated for lip and tongue ties, and if present, to release these tissues as an initial approach which may eliminate the need for pharmacologic treatment of GER3.

If lip or tongue-ties are left untreated, there are other potential problems the infants may face. They may have orthodontic problems, such as large gaps between front teeth that may relapse even after orthodontic care. They may develop dental decay on upper front teeth. They can also have speech problems. As an adult, they are prone to developing periodontal disease, esthetic problems with smile lines and poor oral hygiene4.

Remember, there are other causes of a poor latch or GER. Revision of lip and tongue ties may not be a cure-all. The infant needs to be properly examined and diagnosed. Once properly diagnosed, treatment is safe and simple utilizing a soft tissue laser.

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