When babies learn to suck, feed and swallow they use the same muscles and nerves that they will eventually use for speech and talking.
Some speech and language therapists therefore specialise in working with babies and children to assess and develop feeding skills.
They can help you to understand the skills your baby needs to learn to feed. They can show you how to support your premature baby’s developing skills, so that you feel confident in feeding your baby and that both you and your baby can work together to make feeding an enjoyable bonding experience.
Speech and language therapists can also support you to understand how your baby is “talking” to you.
Babies communicate with us through their behaviours and you as parents are the best people to take time to learn their ‘language’.
The more time you can spend with your baby, the more you will learn to understand how your baby is talking to you all the time.
Speech and language therapists can be available to talk with you, if you have any worries or questions. Speak to the nurse caring for you and your baby and they will arrange this for you.
You may like to ask them about
- Is there anything I can do to help my baby get ready for feeding?
- How can I encourage my baby to start sucking?
- What skills and coordination does my baby need for feeding?
- How will my baby tell me when they are ready for a feed?
- What is the best position to hold my baby in when feeding?
- How can I support my baby’s breathing when they are feeding
- How can I understand my baby’s feeding cues while I am feeding them?
Bottles and teats for preterm infants
The philosophy of our unit is to always promote breast feeding, however when this is not possible bottle feeding is an alternative.
We aim to give generic advice on buying bottles and teats prior to your infant being discharged home.
The market is saturated with various shaped bottles and teats advertising why the product will work best for you baby.
However, if you baby has been born premature or required admission to the neonatal unit, we need to ensure your baby can feed for at least 24 to 48 hours from its own bottle and teats, prior to discharge home.
When selecting a bottle to feed your baby, we advise a soft, orthodontic, slow flowing teat. Please speak to your nurse for further support.
All bottles and teats purchased and brought to the neonatal unit MUST be latex free
Babies of all ages find sucking soothing. Non-nutritive sucking is where babies suck without receiving any nutrition. Specialised dummies can be provided until your baby is above 2kg.
Benefits of non-nutritive sucking are:
Supports normal sucking patterns which promotes early oral feeds
Helps reduce ‘oral aversion’, where a baby dislikes having things in their mouth
Encourages the association between sucking and having a full tummy, when offered with a tube feed
Stimulates the stomach to help digest milk