Question & Answer - Feeding, Eating, & Drinking
How DO parents navigate the baby aisle in stores and online to find appropriate feeding items and mouth toys for good mouth development?
ANSWER FROM: Julia Franklin, Speech-Language Pathologist; Charlotte, North Carolina
I’m a speech-language pathologist (SLP), mom of a curious toddler, and an enthusiast for discovering and trying out infant teething and feeding supplies that promote healthy mouth development. My interest in early feeding and mouth development was driven in part by Diane Bahr’s remarkable course and book, Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development, as well as her free E-Course Everything You Need to Know about a Baby’s Mouth for Good Feeding, Speech, and Mouth Development. To further my education, I also completed an intensive training in the area of Orofacial Myofunctional Treatment with Mary Billings and Dianah Davidson.
Putting my professional hat aside, when I initially walked into a baby store, I realized as a first-time mom how overwhelming the wall of feeding gadgets is for parents - even those of us with feeding and mouth development knowledge! The array of colorful items can easily deceive buyers into thinking all the choices promote healthy mouth function. As my knowledge in feeding grew along with my affinity for cups, spoons, and mouth toys, moms and SLP friends began approaching me for advice for their own baby registries. So, to support YOU in narrowing down your choices, here is a sampling of a few of my favorite things from my frequent trips down the baby aisle (as of March 2015).
TEETHING TOYS AND OBJECTS TO MOUTH
I often see parents discouraging mouthing of hands/objects with their babies. Did you know that there are developmental phases of mouthing that we want to see and are excited for all babies to experience? Check out the progression of mouthing outlined in table form in Chapter 4 of Diane’s book or read more in her recent interview.
-Indestructible Books: Most parents want their kids to devour books - now they really can with these! Although not your traditional mouthing object, books often end up in the mouths of babies. So, try out these water-proof, tear-proof books that kids can really “sink their teeth into!”
Did you know that you can start training open-cup and straw drinking with your baby as early as 5 to 6 months? The commonly used hard-spouted sippy cups promote continued infantile movement patterns in the mouth. However, when used appropriately, straws and open cups support a more mature use of jaw, lip, and tongue movements. For more information on the use and introduction of straws, cups, and sippy cups, click here.
-Honey Bear: Initial learning of straw drinking
-Foogo Straw Bottle: Great for on-the-go, keeping drinks cold, and easy to clean!
-Take N Toss: My preferred straw cup for home use. Spills happen, but getting a little wet is part of the process of learning to use a cup correctly.
In general, try to avoid prolonged use of sippy cups with hard spouts that are “spill/leak proof” as the additional pressure required to suck the liquid may promote tongue protrusion (an undesired pattern in feeding and speech).
Learning open-cup drinking
These products have shapes and openings that help control the liquid as the child learns to tilt a cup and take sips.
Correct posture and stability is an important foundation for feeding. These highchairs adjust to fit your child over time for correct table height and foot stability.
Look for spoons (and forks) that are small enough to fit comfortably into your child’s mouth. Initially choose options that don’t have a deep bowl, so the baby’s lips can easily pull the food off the spoon.
The process of learning to eat and self-feed should be messy! So, get prepared for covering up as the dribbles will inevitably fall!
-Aden & Anis Burpy Bibs: These start out as a traditional burp cloth for use during bottle/breast feeding and then quickly transition to making a large bib for solid food eating that covers the child’s shoulders and chest.
ON-THE-GO SNACKS (for early chewing)*
Learning to chew solid foods should begin before teeth develop. In fact, stimulating the gums through chewing supports healthy tooth eruption. Also as a mom, I enjoy the quest of discovering a variety of snacks to easily throw into the diaper bag and that don’t need constant refrigeration.
-Freeze Dried Strawberries (also try the bananas and mangos!)
-Whole Avocados (with a plastic knife/spoon to cut and eat at your destination!)
*For a detailed table by age for safe introductions of food types/textures please see Chapter 6 of Diane’s book.
So, in summary, remember that with every nibble on a teething toy, each messy face, and every chunk of food you peel off your own clothes means you and your child are on your way to supporting healthy mouth development!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julia Franklin, MS CCC-SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist and mom of a toddler. She co-founded Echo Speech Therapy, a private practice in Los Angeles, CA and has relocated her family to Charlotte, NC. To read more, see Charlotte North Carolina — Echo Speech Therapy or say hello to Julia@echospeechtherapy.com.
Bahr, D. (2010). Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development. Arlington, TX: Sensory World.
Billings, M., & Davidson, D. (n.d.). Orofacial Myology: Make The Connection Course Manual. Kansas City, MO.