Infant feeding therapy is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on assessing and improving a baby's ability to breastfeed or bottle-feed. The therapy is typically conducted by a licensed and trained therapist (SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist or OT, Occupational Therapist), who works closely with the baby and their caregivers to address any feeding difficulties or challenges that may be affecting the baby's health and development.
Infant feeding therapy may be recommended for a variety of reasons, including:
Poor weight gain or growth: Infants who are not feeding properly may struggle to gain weight or grow at the expected rate. This can lead to a range of health problems, including malnutrition, developmental delays, and weakened immune systems.
Reflux or other digestive issues: Some babies may experience reflux, or the back-flow of stomach contents into the esophagus, which can cause discomfort and difficulty feeding. Other digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea, can also impact a baby's ability to feed. A thorough history can help determine a potential cause for the reflux or other digestive issues.
Difficulty latching or sucking: Breastfeeding requires a specific set of skills, including proper latch and effective sucking. Infants who have difficulty with these skills may struggle to feed efficiently, leading to frustration and inadequate milk intake.
Oral-motor issues: Some infants may have difficulty coordinating the movements required for effective feeding, such as tongue and lip movements, jaw strength, and coordination.
During infant feeding therapy, the therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation of the baby's feeding abilities, including their ability to latch, suck, and swallow. The therapist may also evaluate the baby's posture and positioning during feeding, as well as any potential medical issues or underlying conditions that may be affecting feeding.
Based on this assessment, the therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan that may include a range of interventions, such as:
Positioning and postural support: Adjusting the baby's position and providing appropriate postural support can help improve feeding efficiency and reduce discomfort.
Oral-motor exercises: The therapist may recommend exercises to help strengthen the baby's oral-motor skills, such as sucking, swallowing, and tongue and lip movements.
Feeding techniques: The therapist may provide guidance on specific feeding techniques, such as pacing, burping, or modifying the flow of the bottle.
Nutritional support: In some cases, the therapist may work with a dietitian or other healthcare provider to ensure that the baby is receiving appropriate nutritional support.
Infant feeding therapy is a valuable resource for families who are struggling with feeding challenges or who want to ensure that their baby is receiving the best possible nutrition and support. By working with a qualified infant feeding therapist, parents can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to support their baby's feeding development and ensure their long-term health and wellbeing.
About the author: Kellie Green is a certified and licensed Speech Pathologist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), who specializes in infant feeding. She operates a private practice in Columbus, OH, Green Living & Wellness.