Lip Tie in Babies – Causes, Signs, and Treatment

Lip Tie in Babies - Causes, Signs, and Treatment

A lip tie, though not painful or dangerous, can affect the quality of life of your baby. Lip tie does not allow the full movement of the upper lip of the baby, which makes feeding and talking harder for a baby. Fortunately, most lip ties are easy to correct, especially when addressed early in life.

What Is a Lip Tie?

A lip tie is a thick piece of muscleless tissue that connects the upper lip to the upper gums making any movement of the lip particularly hard. It restricts the movement due to its thickness or tightness, or both. This condition is usually misdiagnosed and can lead to early weaning of your baby.

How Common Is It?

A lip tie is similar to a tongue tie, a condition where there is a thick band of tissue connecting the bottom of the baby’s tongue to the floor of the mouth. However, experts are certain that lip ties occur less commonly than tongue ties. If your baby has one type of condition, it does not mean that the other condition will also exist.

What are the Causes of Lip Tie in Babies?

There is no one particular cause for the occurrence of lip tie in babies. Quite simply put, some babies are born with a lip tie while others are not. The condition of a lip tie may develop within the womb itself. While most experts think that this might be attributed solely to genetics, this theory has never been proved.

Does Lip Tie in a Baby Mean that He Has Tongue Tie Also?

There is no evidence to show that a baby with a lip tie will have a tongue tie as well. In fact, both areas in the baby develop at different times in the womb by totally different processes. The association between these two conditions probably stems from the fact that babies will try to overcompensate for the restrictive movement caused by one condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Lip Tie

A lip tie in babies is one of the most under-diagnosed conditions. Since its occurrence is rare and most of its symptoms are similar to those of other, lip ties usually slip under the radar. However, this is where you need to trust your mother’s instinct and make note of all the signs you see in your baby. With a lip tie, not only will your baby show symptoms, even you will feel and notice signs:

In Babies

Some of the signs of a lip tie in your baby are given below:

  • Poor latching
  • Sucking strongly as he tries to create a vacuum
  • Clicking sound when nursing
  • Inadequate milk transfer
  • Unsatisfactory weight gain or loss
  • Colicky
  • Gas and reflux
  • Fussiness and moving away from the breast
  • Coughing, choking, or gulping when feeding
  • Chewing or biting the nipple

A baby crying

In Mothers

Some signs that mothers will experience are given as follows:

How Does Lip Tie in a Young Child Look Like

A lip tie can be classified according to its severity. In this case, it is based on the thickness and extent of the tie itself.

  • Class one of lip ties have no significant attachment.
  • Class two lip ties are attached primarily to the gums.
  • Class three lip ties are attached to the area where teeth will grow in future.
  • Class four lip ties are the most severe and are attached all the way to the palate of the mouth.

What Problems Do Babies with Lip Tie Face?

Babies with a lip tie can face a lot of problems in everyday life. Here are a few problems they may face.

  • They can choke when feeding or sputter their milk leading to malnutrition.
  • They can struggle to gain weight.
  • They are more susceptible to diseases like jaundice.
  • They are far more likely to become colicky.
  • They may struggle to latch onto the nipple causing you pain.
  • They will also feed less which can stunt their development.
  • They may likely need to be fed in clusters.

A baby sleeping

How Does Lip Tie Affect Breastfeeding?

As a breastfeeding mother, it is important to know that breastfeeding your baby who has a lip tie, can be extremely tough. Your baby cannot latch onto the breast, this means he will not gain sufficient nutrition per feed. Hence, you will have to make a frequent feeding schedule for your baby. However, this frequent feeding schedule can result in sore nipples. You may also experience pain, as your baby will put extra pressure on your nipples if he finds difficulty in latching onto your breast properly.  He might be slightly more malnourished than a bottle-fed lip tie baby. Specialists usually recommend either a lip tie reversal or opting for bottle feeding to feed a baby who has a lip tie. If you are a mother to a baby who has a lip tie, then you may have distorted nipples, have issues with milk supply, or even develop blocked feeding ducts or diseases like mastitis.

How Is Lip Tie in a Child Diagnosed?

A lip tie is diagnosed through a physical exam. Most paediatric specialists can diagnose a lip tie based on its appearance. But it is ideal to consult a lactation specialist who is certified by the international board of lactation. You can also visit an orthodontist who specialises in infant dentistry for a diagnosis of lip tie and its severity.

How Is Lip Tie Treated?

Lip tie is treated by observing the seriousness of its condition and on seeing how your baby’s feeding is affected. Most doctors recommend that you don’t go for further treatment for lip tie babies at an early age if they can breastfeed normally. Doctors commonly recommend a reversal of lip tie after the baby develops teeth. If the feeding is very seriously impaired you can then opt for lip tie reversal surgery before his teeth develop. The procedure to reverse lip tie is actually quite simple and takes only a few minutes to complete.

What Happens during the Lip Tie Reversal Procedure?

If your doctor recommends for lip tie surgery, there is no need to panic, as the surgery is quite simple and quick. During the surgery, you will need to sit on a dentist’s chair and hold your baby in a position that the doctors can access your child throughout the procedure. The doctor will then apply an infant friendly anaesthetic or numbing agent. After approximately 30 seconds, they will use a precision laser to cut the lip tie and then the procedure is complete. Remember to consult the doctor about post-op care for pain relief and post-procedure exercises.

Post Treatment Care

There are a number of oral exercises post-procedure that can ease the pain to an extent and heal your baby. Here are a few things you need to do post procedure.

  • If you are afraid that the pain is going to be extreme, you can ask the doctor to prescribe a pain-relieving medicine or ointment that is safe for a child.
  • It is critical that you breastfeed once before the procedure and once immediately after it as well, breastfeeding immediately after the surgery is a natural way to relieve any pain your little one faces.
  • Implement more skin to skin or kangaroo care for your baby, let him suckle on your shoulders or palms, carry him and give him access to a clean part of your skin, babies tend to suckle on their mother’s skin for pain relief.
  • In case the post-procedure pain seems unbearable for your child and he becomes fussy or cries a lot, then you can give him a baby paracetamol or infant ibuprofen. However, these should be used only after consulting with a doctor.
  • It is important to use a clean sterile hand to rub organic coconut oil on the area affected; this is great for anti-inflammation and eases the pain. It also helps your little one heal faster.
  • Ice the area in general to numb it and reduce inflammation.
  • Keep teething toys in hand to help your baby develop good teething habits, these toys also help with pain relief.
  • Certain suckle exercises and sucking techniques for the baby can be tried after the procedure. You should make your baby try these doctor-recommended techniques.

When to Consult a Doctor

In general, a rule of thumb is to see your doctor if you notice that your baby is feeding irregularly. There is no harm in getting your baby examined once if you notice any lip tie symptoms.


1. Can It Cause Speech Problems in Your Child?

Speech problems due to lip tie are extremely rare and are only possible in the most serious of cases, you shouldn’t worry about it and you should consult your doctor for further information about your child’s case specifically.

2. Can Lip Tie Be a Reason for Tooth Decay?

In general, lip tie babies have a harder time for oral care due to the condition itself, while the condition doesn’t cause tooth decay, it can force extra oral hygiene requirements that, if not implemented could eventually lead to tooth decay.

Remember, lip tie is not a condition with dangerous implications and it can be corrected easily, it is recommended that you don’t try treating the condition at home or cutting your baby’s lip to fix it yourself. Follow your doctor’s instructions and trust him, he will ensure your child is cared for in the best way possible.

Also Read: Cleft Lips and Palate in Babies