For a baby’s first year, breastmilk is a can’t-be-beat way of providing optimal nutrition to a baby. A child receives antibodies, boosting their immune system, leading to fewer illnesses in breastfed babies. Breast milk is also known to reduce more long-term diseases, like the likelihood of developing diabetes or asthma, even eczema!
It’s so nutritious, that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 years old. But for many mothers, the pressure from medical professionals and society to breastfeed for as long as possible may seem arduous and downright scary, leading many to abandon their feeding goals earlier than desired. According to the CDC’s 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card, the majority of newborns (84.1%) are breastfed upon birth, but that number drastically drops to less than 60% 6 months in and barely 35% at the end of the first year. Why do mothers, with good intentions, start but then abandon breastfeeding at such high rates?
Many factors impact a woman’s decision to breastfeed. Mothers may feel pressured or worrisome over producing enough milk, balancing work, lifestyle, and pumping may be too difficult, or like many others, latching may be the deciding factor to switch to formula. Today we’ll be diving into latching issues and how ties are sometimes overlooked, causing mothers and infants to miss out on this pivotal bonding time.
Difficulty latching is one of the first reasons mothers give for abandoning breastfeeding. According to a study from UC Davis Health, 92% of women in a study of 418 new moms, experienced issues breastfeeding within 3 days of giving birth. Half reported latching problems, with another 44% experiencing pain. Pain symptoms can also be an indicator of an issue of latching. So, what causes a bad latch?
Many times, infants (and mothers) may need a little coaching to learn how to properly latch on to the nipple. In most hospitals, lactation specialists are on call to coach new mothers on how to properly hold a baby and help the child latch on. But other times, simply learning how to properly latch isn’t the issue, and tongue or lip ties may be the culprit.
Tongue and lip ties are common, but many times are not looked into unless the ties are very obvious. If ties are located closer to the edge of the lip or tongue, they can easily be spotted by parents or medical professionals while still in the hospital. But for those not as noticeable, they can continue to cause problems breastfeeding, causing abandonment at high rates. This is why identifying latch issues immediately and properly evaluating and diagnosing latch problems is crucial.
Symptoms of Ties Impacting Breastfeeding:
- When ties are causing issues, a baby may not be able to latch on at all, or when they do, it causes nipple pain.
- Many babies also are not able to stay on the breast long enough because of bad suction.
- Because of a bad suction, babies may not get enough milk, causing fussiness from hunger. This could also lead to lower baby weight and even colic.
- Mothers’ milk supplies can drop from lack of consistent draining and breast ducts can become clogged.
When diagnosed properly, frenectomies can address latch issues and improve breastfeeding outcomes. Frenectomies are procedures that disconnect the tongue or lip from the surrounding tissue, allowing free movement. Mothers can immediately begin to breastfeed again, leading to higher rates of continued feeding. Frenectomies, in general, are quick, safe, and heal on their own typically within just a few days with no stitches needed.
For parents of newborns experiencing issues with latching, we recommend seeing a lactation specialist. They will be able to check for ties and recommend appropriate next steps.
Our practice provides cutting-edge CO2 laser surgery for tether oral tissues (ankyloglossia & lip adhesion) for patients throughout North and South Carolina and Georgia, including Greenville, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Asheville. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please fill out the contact form below and include your doctor or lactation specialist’s name.