Monday, 20 August 2012

Lip tie

I'm raging mad.
Today I found out about a condition in babies which can cause a poor latch when feeding, and lead to serious difficulties with breastfeeding. It's called upper lip tie. Like tongue tie, it can mess up latch and lead to poor milk tranfer, lack of weight gain in baby, pain for mum and suffering for both.

Guess what, both of my girls have it. The severe type at that. That's the one where the tie goes from in the middle of the top front teeth to the upper lip.

Now, when I was a new mum, breastfeeding wasn't at all off to a good start. I really struggled, and having had a good friend who was also a health visitor and had drummed into me to get support for every.single.feed in hospital, I sought support. Midwives, volunteers, health visitors, support groups, online forums, books. I did it all. And still I was in agonising pain for 8 weeks, and still my baby never seemed satisfied. I have pictures of her with eyes so tired of crying, crying that was put down to colic. I had to call Crysis even, I didn't know what to do anymore. We had days where she cried for hours and nothing would soothe her. At 12 weeks I caved in and supplemented with formula, I could not see my baby be hungry any longer.

At no point was tongue tie/lip tie mentioned or indeed checked. I only found out about tongue tie when my second was born. And only now, I found out about lip tie.

Lip tie does not necessarily lead to difficulties breastfeeding, but it may because it can restrict the movement of the mouth and lead to a shallow latch, which in turn means milking the breast doesn't work so well. I had no major issues with my younger girl, she fed frequently and was also slowish gaining weight but she was always happy after feeds and clearly not going hungry. There was also clearly a lot of output the other end. As for me, I had no pain or soreness at all with her. Both have the exact same severity of lip tie -so in one case it made life really difficult, in the other it didn't have an impact (though I wonder if it may have had an impact on her reluctance to take to solids).

So in this anger at the omission of the medical profession to look my baby in the mouth instead of praising how well I was doing and ignoring the obvious signs of something not being right (my instinct had always told me, but I didn't know the tell tale signs of insufficient milk transfer then), here's my shout out to anyone who ever struggles with breastfeeding: read up on tongue ties and lip ties, and how to remedy. It might be what's wrong and it often goes undiagnosed. The snip is quick and easy.

I'm angry that I was sent to baby massage class to help with the colic (or improve my bonding with baby), rather than remedy what was really wrong. There was lack of output the other end, a baby who looked forever tired and kept falling asleep at the breast but who would never stop suckling because she wasn't full. I nursed 12 out of 24 hours for 6 months. I was exhausted. I was in pain. I told so many people and nobody, yes, nobody took it seriously.

What is beyond me is why babies aren't check as a matter of course. It only takes a minute, and can avoid months of suffering.

Postscript: Here are some of the best resources on lip tie I found online. Lip tie doesn't have to mean difficulties with latch, but it can, especially because it can come hand in hand with a posterior tongue tie (which is hard to spot and often overlooked).


SusanL said...

I am a GP in Glasgow, and must admit I have never heard of lip tie. It does sound plausible that it would cause feeding issues, and I suspect my now 19yr old daughter may have had it, but I am wondering how common is it, how much evidence there is for the connection between it and poor feeding,and how much improvement results from cutting it. Have you come across any research on this?

Kat said...

Frustrating if that was the cause! So little seems to be taught in the medical profession - when Milla wasn't growing the junior doctors wanted to test her for MS rather than check my milk (surprise surprise - problem was the milk).

Tallulah@Bilingual Babes said...

This makes me wonder if it was a problem with my daughter... she cried a lot over the first 12 weeks, although seemed to have a good latch. It would be good if this could be publicised more!

cartside said...

@SusanL, I'll try and put together some links in a separate post. Unlike tongue tie which often leads to poor latch, lip tie more often than not doesn't. My firstborn wasn't ever examined, she may have had tongue tie who knows. Her lip tie is such that it may well be the culprit. I wouldn't expect GPs to know about this, but people running breastfeeding support groups would help, or midwives. I went to such a support group every single week trying to find a solution, I had home visits from volunteers and health visitors and all I heard was "you're doing so well" "the latch looks fine" (why have I got bleeding nipples then?). They say lip tie is uncommon, but maybe it's just because it's not so well known. It can lead to front dental decay incidentally.

SusanL said...

Thanks, that would be interesting. My first daughter never seemed to latch on right, which I didn't fully realise until number 2 came along. I persisted despite bleeding nipples etc. I do seem to remember she had a marked labial frenulum, but I always put the bad start in feeding down to drowsiness for a few hours(she was born soon after I got a dose of diamorhine)followed by a midwife allowing her a bottle of water because we couldn't get her to latch on! Also I did blame my own nipples which were very flat. Thankfully her weight didn't suffer so I was able to persist and it got better after about 4 months. No dental problems since (just a nice gap in her adult teeth!)

SusanL said...

Oh, and Kat, when you say your problem was the milk, do you mean the quantity or the quality of it?

Anonymous said...

Sorry you had to find out the hard way. At least you know now for any future babies that may be headed your way!
-Jack @ Baby ties

Aly said...

Hello, thank you for linking back to the Breast Mates guest post on my blog.Tongue tie and lip tie seems to more and more common than people think but it's not uncommon for it to go unchecked.It does depend on how good the midwives, health visitor and doctors are in the first place on checking babies over when mother is in immense pain during breastfeeding.It was routinely checked back in the 50's when breastfeeding was predominant in infant feeding but since the rise in formula use more over health profession will encourage mother's to stop breastfeeding if there doesn't seem to be improvement over several weeks.I hadn't heard of it until I became a breastfeeding peer supporter after my second baby was born 7 years ago.You are absolutely right to be angry but you shouldn't feel bad if you didn't have the information before hand and no one thought to check.



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