Welcome to “Healthier Babies: Overcoming Infant Oral Feeding Challenges”.
I created this site to help mothers, families, and healthcare providers better understand the reasons why babies, particularly those born prematurely, often encounter difficulties when breast- or bottle-feeding.
As a clinical researcher over the last 25 years, I have dedicated my research towards gaining an understanding of the development of infant oral feeding skills and the causes that prevent some babies from feeding by mouth safely and efficiently.
To start, I want to emphasize that the ability of a baby to feed by mouth does not involve only the ability to suck, but also that of swallowing, breathing, and their appropriate coordination in order to prevent milk aspiration into the lungs. Just as important is the proper and timely functioning of the esophagus for the smooth transport of milk from the pharynx to the stomach. With time, many of these infants’ oral feeding skills will mature leading to appropriate oral feeding performance with no long term consequences. However, it is important to bear in mind that immaturity or dysfunction of any one of these functions can lead to unsafe and inefficient oral feeding such as choking, aspiration, emesis (vomiting), and/or reflux, due to erratic milk transport to the stomach. Consequently, before any intervention/therapy can be offered, it is essential to identify the anatomical and/or physiologic functions at risk of compromising the safety and competency of individual infants.
The understanding gained of the development of infants’ oral feeding skills led me to develop evidence-based efficacious tools and interventions that enhance their ability to feed safely and efficiently by mouth. However, inasmuch as infants are helpless and must rely on their caregiver(s) to survive, we need to remember that their medical status is not only a result of their medical condition, but also, importantly, of the quality of care they receive from those watching over them, particularly their mother and their environment. The complex interactions of all these factors, be they supportive or adverse towards infants’ oral feeding success, is presented in “the Oral Feeding Puzzle”. Consequently, caregivers must take into account the impact(s) that factors independent of the infants, e.g., caregivers, environment, stress, may have on infant oral feeding performance. Of importance, the deleterious effect that stress has on the mother-infant partnership/dyad and lactation must not be ignored (Lau Publications – Mother-Infant Dyad & Stress; Breastfeeding).
I invite you to explore this site to learn more about my work and our current understanding of the challenges facing our babies, the development of evidence-based tools and therapies, the complexity of caregiver-infant interactions, our webinars, our Science Library for additional references. Feel free to contact me if you have any queries.