Guest Column by Diane Bahr
You may remember the author, Diane Bahr, from our first newsletter which featured her participation in Dr. Murphy’s professional book club, Connection Book Club. The group met with Diane to discuss her book titled Nobody ever told me or my mother that! Take a look at her guest column below.
Chew on this! The connection between how babies chew and their health
By Diane Bahr, MS, CCC-SLP, CIMI
Most babies are born with good upper- and mid-face structures (e.g., nice wide eye area, good nose angle, broad mouth roof, open nasal area, and a straight lip line). The best way to keep these structures in shape from birth is through good nose breathing and breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding engages important jaw, lip, and tongue muscles needed for all mouth processes. Bottle feeding mostly uses the lips and cheeks. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are very different processes, so babies who are bottle fed or those having difficulty with breastfeeding may need some extra help.
If parents choose or it becomes necessary to bottle-feed, the good news is that there are activities to help keep the mouth in shape! This includes chewing on the fleshy side of the parent’s index finger at the molar areas and tongue walking to encourage crucial tongue cupping for good feeding and eventually speech. This is done in mouth play with the baby.
Sometimes babies are born without adequate fat pads in the cheeks which usually causes the baby to have difficulty breastfeeding. The fat or sucking pads keep the cheeks against the gums until the baby acquires this skill at 4 to 6 months. Breastfed or bottle-fed babies may hump and thrust their tongues to compensate for missing sucking pads. This can become a difficult habit to change.
If a baby has missing or limited sucking pads, lactation consultants often recommend a Dancer Hand Position (i.e., carefully applied cheek support). At other times, babies are born with tongue, lip, or buccal ties that impact feeding. It is a good idea for a baby to be evaluated for any tethered oral tissues at birth so these can be released.
Most people know something about teething, but they don’t know that biting and chewing from birth are important for jaw growth and development. Even in utero babies are mouthing their hands, fingers, feet, and toes. At 3 to 6 months, babies will gently bite on and explore their own fingers. This usually occurs when babies are lying on their stomachs or sides. It can be hard to bring the hands to the mouth when a baby spends too much time on the back or in containers (e.g., car or infant seats).
A great amount of jaw development occurs in the first year of life through biting and chewing on appropriate mouth items such as Beckman TriChews, Baby Grabbers, and Chewy Q’s. These are all made in the United States with FDA-approved materials.
Teething and jaw development go together. We want teeth coming in on time, in the appropriate sequence, and fully formed. Biting and chewing on appropriate mouth toys and foods are crucial for this process.
It is also important to begin appropriate open-cup feeding, spoon-feeding, and straw-drinking around the 6-month-level. Many early feeding and speech details are found in my books and on my website. Here is one example: Questions & Answers on feeding, eating, and drinking.
For more information see blogs and podcasts at www.agesandstages.net. Email: email@example.com.
About the Author
Diane Bahr, a certified Speech-Language Pathologist and Infant Massage Instructor, is a visionary with a mission. For almost 40 years she has treated children and adults with feeding, motor speech, and mouth function problems. While she is a Speech-Language Pathologist by training, she has also honed her skills as a feeding therapist, published author, international speaker, university instructor, and business owner. She maintains a private practice, writes articles appearing in a variety of publications, and is interviewed frequently on radio and for magazines. Diane is the author of the textbook Oral Motor Assessment and Treatment: Ages and Stages and two parent-professional books Feed Your Baby and Toddler Right: Early Eating and Drinking Skills Encourage the Best Development and Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development.