Oral Motor & Infant Feeding Problems

Infants with feeding difficulties often have oral motor problems. Sometimes the oral-motor deficit is obvious, like when a child gags and chokes during mealtime. But more frequently, the problems are more subtle. For instances, babies who appear to be picky with solid foods may actually lack the tongue coordination and jaw strength to orally manage the food for successful swallowing.

Addressing feeding difficulties as soon as they’re noticed alleviates concerns about proper nutrition and growth.

Oral Motor and Feeding Issues in Infants and Toddlers

Oral motor problems may be caused by either physical or cognitive issues. They are especially common among babies born prematurely and children with cerebral palsy.

Many babies with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) develop feeding problems because they associate eating with the pain of reflux. Their refusal to eat then compounds the problem by slowing down their oral motor development.

Oral motor problems can be overcome by therapy.

Therapy helps your child overcome mealtime difficulties like:
  • Constant hunger despite regular feedings
  • Limited food intake
  • Refusing to swallow food
  • Difficulty swallowing food (dysphagia)
  • Food selectivity
  • Delayed feeding development
  • Recurring mealtime tantrums

Oral motor therapy is a highly effective treatment for improving oral muscle function in infants and children with neuromotor disorders. As well as for typical developing infants exhibiting mild weaknesses in oral tone.

Lip and tongue-tie conditions restrict oral range of motion and movement patterns. At 26 weeks gestation the fetus begins to suck and swallow and the amniotic fluid assisting oral muscle develops. When a child has lip and tongue frenulum restrictions, muscle strength is impacted due to reduced lingual range of motion. Infants born with lip and tongue tie may exhibit tight and restricted lingual tone or weaknesses in lingual tone impacting infant feeding skills. Following frenum revisions, oral motor intervention plans may play an integral part in normalizing oral tone and facilitating typical feeding skills. Typical feeding skills will help keep infant and toddler feeding on track, allowing speech and language skills to develop.

Evaluating Oral Motor and Feeding Problems

Evaluations are performed in our office; we make the process comfortable and easy for you and your child. The evaluation process includes collection of a through medical history, a connected language sample, oral motor reflex evaluation, and a feeding observation.

Observing your child’s oral motor and swallowing skills at mealtime helps us determine if the problem is physical or cognitive. It also allows us to give you immediate feedback on how to minimize some of the feeding problems.

Your individualized oral motor program will vary based on our findings and the severity of the problem. Evaluations and programs can be conducted in English or Spanish.