You might be thinking to yourself, how in the world would a pediatric dentist help with breastfeeding? To be sure, there are several resources available to mothers with breastfeeding struggles; including a doula, a midwife, a lactation consultant, or the international non-profit organization called La Leche League (translates to the milk league).
We are not lactation consultants, nor are we specialists in the birthing process. We can help, however, if your doctor, pediatrician, lactation consultant, or midwife determines a medical condition that relates to difficulty with latching called a tongue tie or a lip tie.
Breastfeeding Challenges Are Not Uncommon
In fact, if you are struggling with breastfeeding, and the only step you’ve taken thus far is to do some research on google, we strongly encourage you to reach out to one of the above-mentioned resources. Breastfeeding is a natural body exchange between you and your baby. Nevertheless, the fact that it is a natural process does not always equate to the term, easy. Breastfeeding can present numerous challenges for a new mother, in spite of the fact that we know a woman’s body is created with the specific ability to produce milk for her baby. A variety of factors can create challenges with breastfeeding including:
pain for the mother
difficulty with latching
anxiety or stress related to breastfeeding in public
concern about supply (many mothers worry: ‘is my baby getting enough?’)
returning to work
The Majority of Mothers Want to Breastfeed
Mothers who struggle with breastfeeding are not alone and are not unique in their challenges (even though it may feel like you are). In fact, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a little over 80% of mothers start out breastfeeding their babies which is indicates that a majority of mothers want to breastfeed their babies, yet by the three-month mark, the percentage of breastfed babies drops to just under half (46.9%).
How a Tongue Tie or Lip Tie Impairs Latching
If you’re having pain during breastfeeding or your baby struggles to latch, ask your breastfeeding resource support if it could be related to a tongue-tie or a lip tie.
Sore, cracked nipples can be the result of breastfeeding with an improper latch. What makes a proper latch? According to WIC Breastfeeding Support, these are the steps for a good latch:
Tickle your baby’s lips with your nipple. This will help the baby open its mouth wide.
Aim your nipple just above your baby’s top lip. Make sure your baby’s chin isn’t tucked into their chest.
Aim your baby’s lower lip away from the base of your nipple. The baby’s lips should be turned outward like a fish. Your baby should lead into the breast chin first and then latch onto your breast. Your baby’s tongue should be extended, and your breast should fill your baby’s mouth.
As stated by these steps, your baby’s lips must be able to turn out, and their tongue must be able to extend. If your baby has a lip tie or a tongue tie, it could prevent your baby from the ability to form a good latch. To further explain we need to understand a bit about the anatomy of the mouth. The tongue is attached to the floor of the mouth by a thin membrane called the lingual frenulum. The lips as well, are attached by a thin membrane to the gum which is called the labial frenulum. These membranes should be thin enough to allow movement of the tongue and lips, when the frenulum is too short or thick and tight, it restricts mobility which can therefore impair latching capability. If your baby is unable to create a seal on the breast that enables them to suction out the milk, they may be squeezing your breast or nipple which is painful.
How We Can Help
To clarify, if your baby has a lip tie or a tongue-tie there is no negative stigma associated with either of those terms. Neither means your baby has a disfiguration, nor does it automatically mean your baby will struggle to latch during breastfeeding. If you believe your baby has a tongue or lip tie but can breastfeed without pain, then put it out of your mind. However, if your breastfeeding supporter believes a lip tie or tongue tie is contributing to breastfeeding challenges, call us for a consult about a simple, effective procedure called a frenectomy.
What is a Frenectomy?
A frenectomy is a procedure that snips the lingual or labial frenulum. Traditionally, a frenectomy was conducted merely with surgical scissors. At Utah Pediatric Dentists, we perform frenectomies via our LightScalpel CO2 laser. Our laser allows this quick procedure to be less painful and less traumatic as well as with increased accuracy, safety, and quicker healing.
Following the frenectomy, the frenulum will reform, albeit thinner or longer than its previous state. To ensure this, we provide wound treatment, follow-up care, and education for stretching exercises to ensure the reformed frenulum allows proper mobility. We are pleased to work with your breastfeeding supporter to provide well-rounded and collaborative aftercare for you and your baby.
Healing from a Frenectomy
Thanks to the CO2 laser, which both disinfects and cauterizes the wound site immediately, there will be little to no bleeding following the procedure, and you can breastfeed your baby immediately after to help soothe your baby (and you!) The wound site itself will have a diamond shape appearance, which will change colors during the healing stages: white, yellow, and/or green are all appropriate colors that do NOT indicate infection.
Call Utah Pediatric Dentists for a Frenectomy
Each of the three of our office locations in Redwood, South Davis, and Herriman has a LightScalpel CO2 laser. Our staff and pediatric dentists have performed hundreds of frenectomies, some of our patients driving long distances to utilize our services. We are cognizant of the fears that parents may have at the thought of a frenectomy for their precious baby, and we both respect and honor those fears by being patient, present for questions, and supportive of a collaborative breastfeeding approach for mothers.