By: Nancy Swigert, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S
Infants gain all their nutrition through breast or bottle feeding until they are at least six months of age. The ability to suck successfully from breast or bottle requires the infant to coordinate three actions: suck-swallow-breathe. Suck is accomplished with slightly different motions on the breast compared to the bottle, but essentially the lips must close on the nipple and the tongue moves in and out in a suckle motion and presses the nipple against the roof of the mouth, creating pressure on the nipple. As the jaw moves down, it helps create suction to pull the liquid into the mouth. The infant then has to swallow the liquid, and the infant must stop breathing during each swallow and then breathe after swallowing. The suck-swallow-breathe sequence then starts again. Many things can interfere with this sophisticated system for swallowing. Here are some examples of possible causes of difficulty with feeding in infants. Many of these problems can continue to affect the child’s ability to eat and swallow as they grow.