Early Intervention Feeding Strategies
Early Intervention Therapy to address Infant Feeding Challenges
Is your infant having difficulty when bottle or breast feeding?
An ability to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing to feed is essential for an infant to successfully nurse or take a bottle. In premature infants in particular, there may be a delay in the development of these important reflexes. An infant’s pediatrician may identify this developmental delay, and recommend Early Intervention Services to address the issue.
Signs That Your Infant May be Having Difficulty with Feedings
A teli Occupational Therapist, Jennifer Krandel, has worked with a number of infants who have experienced challenges when beginning to feed. “When an infant is having difficulty attempting to feed, they may appear stressed and exhibit signals that let you know they are struggling,” shares Jennifer. Those signals may include:
- Coughing and/or gagging
- Inability or difficulty maintaining suction during breast or bottle feeding
- Overall body tension and stiffness
- Frustrated and unsettled behavior
- Increased effort to breathe
Addressing Feeding Developmental Delays through Early Intervention
Jennifer has worked with medically fragile infants and their parents/caregivers to help them address these types of developmental delays in feeding. “Parents are understandably scared and worried that their child is not getting enough to help them grow and develop. I help address their concerns by providing them with a variety of feeding strategies to reduce the stress for their infant as well as themselves,” notes Jennifer. “In Early Intervention, particularly in the area of Occupational Therapy, we have a number of options we can explore with infants and their parents/caregivers.”
Early Intervention Feeding Strategies
As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, with over 5 years of experience Jennifer provides some insight into some potential challenges and associated solutions that she recommends for parents and caregivers.” It is important to note that any change in feeding strategy should be done under the guidance of a feeding professional such as an Occupational Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist in conjunction with your pediatrician,” cautions Jennifer.
- Difficulty Maintaining Suction
“When an infant has difficulty maintaining suction during feeding, exploring varying nipples if your infant is bottle fed may enable your infant to maintain suction and control the flow with greater ease,” suggests Jennifer. “Additionally, when an infant is bottle or breast fed, external supports can be utilized to help the infant maintain their latch”.
- Inability to Tolerate Flow
“For some infants the speed of the flow may be too fast or too slow for them,” notes Jennifer. “In these cases, you may consider a change your infant’s feeding position, so that gravity is not working against them, but with them. The position of the bottle is another potential technique to control the flow for them, allowing them to breathe and pause. Exploring bottle nipples if the infant is bottle fed can be utilized to decrease or increase flow rate, however the modifications should be done under the guidance of an occupational therapist or speech language pathologist. Also, it is always important to insure the head and neck are supported during feedings.”
- Keeping your infant awake or calm during feeding
Finally, staying awake or calm during feeding may be a hurdle for some infants. “In those instances, either unbundling them to wake them up or bundling to calm them can be very effective. For the infant that is agitated during feeding, soft music or rocking them gently can help,” notes Jennifer.
The importance of addressing feeding issues early cannot be overstated. “Parents feel such a sense of relief when they realize they can help their infant to improve their ability to take a bottle or nurse,” notes Jennifer. Most importantly collaborate with your pediatrician as well as an Occupational Therapist or Speech Language Pathologist when feeding concerns arise to insure safety during feeding time. By implementing the suggestions we provide, often, feeding time can become a soothing and rewarding time that a parent can share with their child.
Learn more teli Early Intervention Services