Oral Sensory Issues and introducing solids to Baby
Even new borns will often suck on their fingers. Babies typically are born with a suck reflex. They need this reflex to to feed from day one. Babies however do not only suck to fill their tummies. Babies also do what is called “non-nutritive” sucking; this kind that rhythmic suck acts to soothe them. This is why many young babies will suck on their fingers or a dummy! If you introduce a dummy it is important to considered the type of dummy and deciding on a dummy that suits your baby - size, shape, length of teat so not to trigger gags if you have an oral sensitive child. If a child is tube fed, a dummy or mouthing toys may be recommended as they receive a feed. This can allow the child to make a connection between oral feelings and the sensation of their tummies being filled. All children with tube feeding should be linked to a feeding clinic or health professional team for a Tube Feeding plan in order to reduce tube feeding dependency issues.
As Babies get more hand control they begin putting things in their mouths, otherwise known as mouthing. This is typical behavour and signals a growing interest in the world around them. In fact if a baby between 6 & 9 month that is NOT mouthing things may need to be monitored. It can be a red flag to take a closer look at their development!
In the first year, children explore their surroundings through their senses -- seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, and tasting. The more they explore, the more they learn how things can vary - soft vs hard? Yummy vs yukky? Food or not food? What shape is it? What texture is it? Can I eat it? Does it make a sound or does it light up?. To get all of this information a baby is going to want to put the object /food in their mouth. Mouthing helps babies learn all about different shapes and textures. Their lips and tongues are the most sensitive parts of their bodies! It is a key way children learn about the world....so if a baby is not mouthing or is not allowed to mouth things, learning can be impacted upon. Children with physical difficulties that reduce their ability to get their hands or objects to their mouths, often are placed on an oral sensory programmes.
Mouthing is also important for introducing baby to solid foods. Mouthing toys and objects with different shapes and textures encourages children to move their lips round the shapes and their tongues move and prod the shapes and textures. This oral "exercising" gets baby ready for when foods are introduced. Early solid foods introduced to children will have varying flavours, smooth textures, grainy textures, lumps of various firmness and shapes. Mouthing before and during the introduction of solid foods helps the child to cope with the bombardment of sensations that occurs when new foods are offered. Some "fussy eaters" find the sensations of foods overwhelming and need support at feeding and /or developmental clinics to help them process sensory inputs.
Allowing and encouraging oral mouthing of safe toys is vital to reduce this risk.
Oral Sensory Exploration - Safety is KEY
Infants may typically continue to mouth things even up to 2 years of age. The mouthing phase will vary for different children. It can be a dangerous phase! If something is in reach of your baby or toddler it is likely to go their mouths! We must be on constant watch about what is in our children's reach to keep them safe. It is natural for them to put ANYTHING in their mouths. Offering a range of mouthing and teething toys can help children to engage in oral exploration safely. These oral sensory toys have all different shapes and have lots of different textures for little tongues and lips to explore (bumps, ridges, raised circles). For older children that continue to show oral sensory seeking behaviours, there are options like chewy tubes and chew necklaces.
Match Child's oral and sensory needs
Orthodontic dummies vary in size and teat shape - they can provided good oral positioning.
A Teething Dummy!
For front molars & the textured surfaces can massage sore gums. Water filled chambers can be cooled in the fridge.
Sensory Teething Mitten.
the variation of shapes & ridges allows their tongue & lips to explore new sensations. Strap means baby can't drop the teething toy.
Make teething toys varied for new shapes & texture exploration.
Mouthing toys of all shapes & sizes.