Taking care of a newborn is both exciting and exhausting. Breastfeeding is one aspect of newborn care that makes it so exhausting, because an infant needs to eat so frequently and is still learning so much about the world. If you are having trouble breastfeeding and haven't been able to find a solution, a simple procedure under your baby's tongue or lip could help your baby make significant breastfeeding improvements:
Lip Tie Surgery and Tongue Tie Surgery
Don't let the word "surgery" scare you. Lip tie and tongue tie surgery, both referred to as a frenectomy, are very minor surgeries. It may surprise you, however, that the same professional does not perform both procedures. Lip tie surgery is performed by a pediatric dentist (because lip ties affect future teeth placement), and tongue tie surgery can be performed by an ear, nose, and throat specialist such as Christopher M. Shaari, MD.
A pediatric dentist uses either a laser or scissors to loosen the tissue, or frenulum, that connects the lip to the upper jaw so that the baby has the freedom of movement to latch properly when breastfeeding. Lasers may sound extreme for a newborn but are actually a more recent, cleaner way of completing this procedure. Either method does not require anesthesia, so you can rest easy that this procedure will not be harmful to your baby and will only require up to one week of minor recovery.
Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist
An ENT also uses either a laser or scissors to perform a frenectomy. Because the tongue is harder to hold still, it is easier to use scissors for a quick snip of the restricted tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth. No anesthesia is required and the procedure literally takes less than one minute with virtually no recovery process.
A better breastfeeding experience
A baby's lip creates a proper seal when latching for breastfeeding and a baby's tongue creates a wave-like movement that pulls the milk from the breast. Any extra thickness or tightness of one or both frenulums will definitely cause latch and milk transfer problems that can eventually lead to:
- loss of your milk supply
- poor infant weight gain
- colicky infant behavior from gas or hunger caused by poor eating technique
Once the lip and tongue are able to move freely, your baby can start to:
- latch properly,
- create proper suction, and
- transfer milk more efficiently.
After your baby receives a frenectomy, give your baby time to adjust to this newfound freedom of movement. Ask the pediatric dentist or ENT about proper care of your infant post-procedure. Once your baby relearns how to eat the proper way, your breastfeeding experience should improve dramatically, and your relationship with your baby will also become sweeter.
To find out if getting lip tie and/or tongue tie surgery for your baby could improve your breastfeeding experience, consult an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC, for proper diagnosis of a lip or tongue tie. Most pediatricians do not acknowledge these conditions unless they are very serious. Getting a recommendation from an IBCLC, combined with consent from a pediatric dentist or ENT, can encourage your insurance to cover this procedure and make it more affordable for you.