Tongue and Lip Ties: The Reason Why Your Baby May Not Be Latching

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Image via Flickr/ chippenziedeutch

Tongue and lip ties are classified by where they are located regarding the tongue and lip, respectively.

Tongue and lip ties are very common midline facial defects in infants, and while they don't pose serious health risks, they can make it hard for a baby to nurse or for an older child to swallow solid food. This may sound serious, but it can be remedied quickly with no lasting effects. Sometimes even chiropractic work helps release the muscles that are needed to learn to nurse.

{ MORE: Breastfeeding: The Importance of Getting the Proper Latch and Maintaining It }

Mothers may first notice that their baby has a hard time breastfeeding if their child has a tongue or lip tie. This is because the tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth (called the lingual frenulum) is restricted, in the case of tongue ties. 

If a baby has a lip tie, he or she will have similar issues with breastfeeding because the lips are attached to the gums, making it equally as hard for the child to get a firm grasp. Most children who have lip ties have tongue ties as well. 

{ MORE: Baby Teeth and Mouth Care }

“Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is defined as restriction of the anterior tongue motion-normally caused by an excess band of tissue between the tongue and the floor of the mouth,” said Dr. David Molter, pediatric otolaryngologist with St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “If this tissue is tighter than routine, the baby is not able to project the tongue forward.”

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