How oral motor therapy can help with breastfeeding

Learning to breastfeed together is the first journey you will take as mother and baby. It can be traumatic for mums who excitedly welcome a new member of the family, to then become faced with the challenging role of breastfeeding their little one, and encountering oral motor problems.

It may completely inhibit babies from breastfeeding and, in some cases, mothers can interpret the condition as permanent and feel guilty. Oral motor therapy techniques can help to overcome these issues and in turn those feelings.

Many new mums and babies have difficulty with breastfeeding and the key is to diagnose any problems as early as possible.

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What are oral motor skills?

A baby’s oral motor skills can be categorised by the following according to Speech-Language Pathologist, Caroline Bias:

    • Strength. This refers to the capacity of the muscles in the lips, cheeks, and tongue to function normally so that it is possible for the baby to suck the breast with success.
    • Coordination. The ability of these muscles to move in sync to allow sucking, swallowing and breathing in a flowing motion.
    • Range of motion. This refers to how well the lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue work together to allow baby to open his mouth wide enough to take in the nipple, to round the lips in order to get a good seal and a comfortable latch, and to raise and lower the tongue to effectively extract the milk.
    • Sensitivity. The ability to react to certain stimuli such as infant’s sucking reflex in response to the introduction of nipples in his mouth. .

If baby finds it hard to master the suck and swallow action required to feed efficiently from the breast, finds it difficult to latch on, or is often distracted when breastfeeding, then he may need oral motor therapy.

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Getting support from health professionals who can advise the most effective treatment is very important. With the right kind of oral motor therapy, it is possible to understand and manage the condition successfully.

Find out what help is available on the next page…