This article is not about nutrition, that task is left to the specialists in the field. It goes from the importance of respecting the milestones related to food, the need for food and, above all, the taste for food.
And it is that all this is closely related to the way in which the structures and muscles of the face develop, especially the mouth. And this, in turn, will improve other functions in addition to swallowing, such as breathing and speaking.
I will try to explain the steps in feeding as the pediatrician marks it to all parents.
First the baby will breastfeed or bottle. In order to suck and get the milk, the baby’s tongue will move back and forth from a low position. And the sucking muscles will force to create a vacuum inside the mouth that allows the milk to be obtained. Here I will make a reservation, those babies who take a bottle, please have the hole in the very small nipple. If the milk spurts out on its own, the child will never exercise the muscles.
At about 4 months, we can start giving him water or fruit juice. We can add a different medium to this new texture and flavor, such as a spoon. This requires the tongue to make movements other than sucking on the nipple.
Already at 5/6 months, we can introduce semisolids. And this is when the funniest part of this whole process begins. This stage requires a lot of patience and time. But I can assure you that it is worth it. We must arm ourselves with courage and let our little one get dirty, drain the food, try to put it in their mouth (by hand, of course), try to give it to us (with what that means) … Experiment. That is the basis of all learning.
And here I am going to list all the benefits that this has – and let’s see if that way we can convince the most tikis mikis parents; P-.
Tactile stimulation: in order to function properly in the world, our brain needs to process, analyze and integrate the information that comes from the senses. The sense of touch is probably the widest. And being able to stimulate the oral area, where there are many receptors and nerve endings, is essential for proprioceptivity and later specificity in the movements necessary for speech.
Structural conformation: the mouth is made up of many structures. Some soft and some hard. All of them in continuous development like the rest of the body. Depending on the movements and forces that this generates, the structures will develop in one way or another. Thus, for example, a child who keeps the tongue in a low position constantly throughout its development, does not allow adequate pressure to be generated within the mouth. This causes the palate not to develop the proper shape, the teeth grow deformed and, ultimately, the entire structure of the mouth, including the jaws, is affected. The deformations in the structure generate failures at the articulatory, swallowing, respiratory level …
Muscle movements: the tongue, as we see it, has 17 muscles and is the main organ of articulation and swallowing. Along with the general development of the child, they are exercising and developing the muscles of the tongue. And one of the fundamental milestones for this development is food. We said that at the beginning the lingual movements are basically two (forward and backward) in a horizontal plane. Then, it is necessary to stimulate other lateral muscles so that the water or juice does not run off, then we begin with movements up and down to facilitate the swallowing act of the semisolids and, finally, lateral movements and in all directions to help the chewing, swallowing and subsequent “cleaning” of the mouth.
As you can see, eating is very important not only to grow strong, but to exercise many muscles and contribute to the formation of structures that are of utmost importance in the development of speech and breathing.
If you have any questions or need advice for the development of these milestones, do not hesitate to contact us. At DyLeS we will be happy to accompany you.