Why Your Baby Won’t Latch (Expert Advice on Lip & Tongue Ties, Cleft Lip, and High Arched Palate)
A lot of things can get in the way of a momma’s breastfeeding journey. There’s nipple soreness, mastitis, low milk supply, stress, and postpartum depression, to name a few. Most mommas I’ve met have battled with at least one of these issues. But, there’s a different kind of heartache when the issue isn’t about the mom but about the baby.
This is why, today, I’d like to invite you to this conversation with our guest expert Kayla Shea as she talks about the common reasons why a baby won’t latch properly.
For many babies, the reason is either one or a combination of these conditions: lip ties, tongue ties, a cleft lip, and a high arched palate. But wait! Before you self-diagnose your baby, please bear in mind that it’s normal for newborns to have a poor latch. They’re doing it for the first time, and it could take some time for them to get it right.
This article isn’t meant to scare you or help you diagnose your baby’s condition. Rather, it could serve as a guide when you’re confused about whether or not you should bring up your baby’s latching issues to your doctor.
Also, if your baby gets diagnosed with any of the conditions I just mentioned, I hope that you’ll get some helpful tips and encouragement from this interview.
Meet Mama Coach Kayla Shea
Mama Coach Kayla Shea is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC), Registered Nurse, Perinatal Educator, Perinatal Yoga Instructor, Sleep Coach, and Naturopath.
Her passion for helping moms and their babies started when she worked as a nurse in a neonatal delivery unit. As she stated during our interview,
“I saw what a vulnerable time bringing a new baby is, the struggles that come along with it, and how some support can make a world of difference. I began taking specialized courses in neonatal, lactation, and perinatal care as I worked labor and delivery.”
In 2018, Kayla became a mom and experienced firsthand the struggles of transitioning into motherhood, eventually leading her to pursue the careers she now has. Kayla says,
“I wanted the ability to care for families in a way that I now understand families need… Parenthood is so multifaceted, I feel I can really bring holistic care to our families.”
No doubt, Kayla is an amazing mom and expert in her multi-disciplinary field, which is why I’m delighted to have her here on our blog. Without further ado, let’s get into the meat of this expert interview!
When Your Baby Won’t Latch (Interview with Guest Expert Kayla Shea)
- How do we identify lip and tongue ties?
- What are the signs of lip and tongue ties?
- Does lip tie or tongue tie always mean that the baby will have a latching issue?
- Are there other health problems or challenges associated with lip and tongue ties?
- Should I get my baby’s tie surgically corrected or released?
- Can my baby breastfeed with a cleft lip?
- How can I help my baby get a good latch despite having a cleft lip?
- What do I need to know about a high arched palate?
- Are there techniques that can help me breastfeed my baby with a high arched palate?
1. How do we identify lip and tongue ties?
Identifying tongue and lip ties is a subjective diagnosis of oral anatomy, observation of tongue function, and the entire clinical picture. Tongue and lip ties can be confused with normal connective tissue; this is why a detailed assessment of the baby and an observation of breastfeeding are required.
It is normal to have connective tissue under the upper lip and tongue, but is that tissue restrictive? Does it affect function? This is what a healthcare provider will consider. It is common to see a tongue tie if a lip tie is present, and ties are often genetic.Tongue and lip ties can be confused with normal connective tissue; this is why a detailed assessment of the baby and an observation of #breastfeeding are required.CLICK TO TWEET
2. What are the signs of lip and tongue ties?
- Painful breastfeeding
- Nipple cracks, blisters, or milk blebs
- Inability for babe to lift the tongue or extend the tongue past the lower gum ridge
- Heart-shaped tongue when crying
- Frequent spitting up
- Frequent clogged ducts or engorgement
- Sucking blisters on baby’s lips
- Weight loss or slow weight gain
- Fussy babe, “popping on and off”
- Inability to achieve a wide and deep latch
- Inability to flange upper lip
Many common signs and symptoms of common breastfeeding issues overlap, creating the importance of a thorough history and assessment by a healthcare provider.
RELATED: Breastfeeding is Hard but Beautiful (Honest Story of Momma Tatiana)
3. Does lip tie or tongue tie always mean that the baby will have a latching issue?
Ties come in a range of severity, and it depends on the individual baby if a tongue or lip tie correction is needed to correct latching issues. Ties can be confused with other breastfeeding issues. For example, ties can cause frequent spitting up which may be confused as reflux.Ties come in a range of severity, and it depends on the individual baby if a tongue or lip tie correction is needed to correct #latchingissues.CLICK TO TWEET
4. Are there other health problems or challenges associated with lip and tongue ties?
If ties are severe, they may cause dental, palate, jaw, and speech issues in the future.
5. Should I get my baby’s tie surgically corrected or released?
A thorough assessment by a knowledgeable healthcare professional is needed to decide on surgical correction (Frenectomy). Consultation with an IBCLC can significantly improve breastfeeding satisfaction, whether a surgical correction is completed or not.
An IBCLC can complete a detailed history, provide an assessment of mom and baby, adjust latch, adjust positioning, post frenectomy care, and deal with a range of breastfeeding challenges. Experimenting with different positions and using an asymmetric latch can help with obtaining an effective latch. Referral to a pediatric trained chiropractor, cranial-sacral therapy, or massage therapist may also be helpful.
6. Can my baby breastfeed with a cleft lip?
Cleft lips may be partial or complete, unilateral or bilateral, and may or may not also have a cleft of the palate.
It will depend on the baby and his/her cleft what interventions are needed. But yes, a baby may be able to breastfeed. It would be important to work with a team of healthcare professionals, including a doctor, IBCLC, and OT.
RELATED: How to Breastfeed (Best Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms)
7. How can I help my baby get a good latch despite having a cleft lip?
The lips stabilize the breast in the baby’s mouth while helping the tongue form a seal. This seal is needed to generate enough suction for milk removal. Some breastfeeding adjustments will be necessary; for instance, a mama may hold the breast like a teacup while feeding, using the breast to seal the cleft.
Mama will also have to focus on establishing a good milk supply, appropriate weight gain and may need to supplement breastfeeding by another method. Other measures may include upright feeding positions, aiming of the nipple depending on the cleft, and hand compression while breastfeeding.
8. What do I need to know about a high arched palate?
A high arched palate can make it difficult for the nipple to get deep enough into the oral cavity, causing pain and inadequate milk transfer.
A high arched palate may be associated with a tongue tie which may need correction. Consultation with an IBCLC early on when experiencing breastfeeding issues, including pain or milk supply, will improve outcomes and allow for necessary referrals.Consultation with an #IBCLC early on when experiencing #breastfeedingissues, including pain or #milksupply, will improve outcomes and allow for necessary referrals.CLICK TO TWEET
9. Are there techniques that can help me breastfeed my baby with a high arched palate?
It is important to get a lot of breast tissue in the baby’s mouth with a high arched palate.
Experiment with positioning; try leaning forward and using gravity to encourage breast tissue in the baby’s mouth. Using an asymmetric latch and modified football hold can also be very helpful.
Connect with Mama Coach Kayla Shea!
If you found value from Kayla’s expert answers, you’ll surely enjoy connecting with her. Her services are often covered by insurance. She also offers complimentary consultations prior to confirming how she can help you out.
To contact Kayla or learn more about her momma-mazing work, be sure to visit her page on Facebook or Instagram.