These exercises are designed for the baby with tight lips and/or a tight labial frenulum, known as a lip tie. Both before and after a lip tie revision, it is important to help a lip-tied baby learn how to use his mouth properly to breastfeed effectively. Start these before the revision takes place. Your baby can learn a few things about how his mouth is supposed to move before the process and both of you can become accustomed to these exercises prior to the procedure so that they are not troublesome afterward.
These exercises are designed to relax the muscles around the mouth (orbicularis oris and mentalis). These exercises work well whether or not your baby has had his frenulums revised. Although frenulums themselves do not stretch, the tissues and muscles around the frenulums can.
Practice these exercises three to five times a day, before most daytime breastfeeding sessions. Always start with freshly washed hands and neatly trimmed fingernails.
These oral exercises are designed to be gentle and fun. They shouldn’t seem to hurt or bother the baby. You may find they annoy the baby, especially if she is hungry and you are attempting to do them before feedings. Try the exercises on yourself or your partner to try to identify and locate the targeted muscles. This will also help you understand which parts of the mouth are more sensitive than others. If any of these exercises make you uncomfortable, please don’t do them and let your IBCLC know.
Fishy Face and Smoochy Lips
Use your thumb and first finger on either side of baby’s face. Gently squeeze the cheeks as you pull the tissue forward like a smooch kiss. Feel free to smooch your baby on those irresistible lips. Repeat three to five times.
Outside Upper and Lower Lip Stretch and Smooth
Use your finger and thumb to gently pinch the upper lip/philtrum medially and pull the lip outward and away from the gum, then downward, then return to neutral. Smooth out the upward lip with forefinger and thumb (as if smoothing out a moustache laterally). Repeat on the lower lip, gently pinching, pulling out, then smoothing laterally. Repeat upper and lower lips three times each.
Inside Lip Stretches
Place your finger inside baby’s upper lip next to the frenulum. Lift the lip out and away from the gum and hold for three seconds. Move toward the back of the mouth (where baby’s molars will eventually come in), one finger breadth at a time, pulling the lip away from the gum, holding for three seconds each time. Repeat on the other side of baby’s mouth.
Lastly, gently lift and stretch the lip at the site of the upper frenulum and hold at extension for three seconds. Repeat this three times.
When latching, use the upper lip flip technique to help flay the lip on the breast. Watch the video below for an example. If using a shield, peel the lip out once baby is latched.