It has come to my increasing attention that there is a need for parents to know what resources are available to help them in understanding typical development. In an effort to help offer guidance I am going to just present a few take-aways in this post. Parents need to understand that they are their child‘s first teacher and can offer stimulation at home that will further aid their child in learning how to eat and drink. Start feeding your baby puree solid foods, as a general rule when they are eight months old. Start with a stage one baby food and give them a small baby sized spoon that are available readily in a drug store. The spoon should have a soft surface, where the food is placed. Typically you will see these marketed as “baby spoons”. One that the baby above uses is an example. Bear in mind that you will want to be guided by your child’s pediatrician about the amounts of food that your child eats.
In terms of giving your child liquids. A fact not very widely recognized is that your baby will be born knowing how to suck and swallow and have had a great deal of practice at that point. Your baby in-utero is starting to suck and swallow because they are surrounded in the womb in amniotic fluid. They need to learn how to suck and swallow this. As a result – your child does not need you to teach them this skill, (typically developing children) and can skip the bottle. Rather than giving them a bottle, be that teacher and teach your child to close their lips so that some of te very first sounds can emerge “m”, “b” and “p”. How are they produced? Closing your lips. So……try to use a honey bear with tubing. A company by the name of Talk Tools sells this product. They can be found at www.talktools.com. The product comes with tubing. You, the person feeding the baby is going to place the tubing in the baby’s mouth and squeeze the honey bear itself and liquid will flow into the baby’s mouth. The person feeding the baby will be the one controlling how much liquid is given. Straw drinking will develop around fifteen to eighteen months, so do not worry about this for now.
Pacifiers – my personal pet-peeve. Do you and your child a favor by avoiding their use from the beginning. A typically developing child does not need them and the continued use will be to your child’s detriment, if you have already started. Sorry…. Children need to learn to close their lips – not continue the sucking and swallow that the pacifier promotes. If your child is using this you can start weaning them by cutting the rubber part of the pacifier down very gradually…snip off a bit by bit. Gradually there will be not enough to suck on and the pacifier will be gone.
Thickening agents may be suggested by your doctor if your child or young infant is having difficulty swallowing. Be careful because some of these have not been tested on this population and there may be better options such as nectars, thichening with rice cereal, smoothies or shakes.
Sarah Rosenfeld Johnson has written a great deal about the connection between speech development and feeding. Google her name and you will see more specific information. As well, the www.talktools.com website can tell you more about this speech-language pathologist.