Newborn Feeding Work Outs

Newborn Feeding

Cindy Hooks, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

Did you know that when you snuggle your sweet baby in your arms and offer them a bottle that they are beginning a newborn feeding work out?

In order for your baby to meet their nutritional needs, newborns need to be able to do three things during feedings. They need to suck, compress (provide pressure on a nipple) and coordinate their breathing to protect their tiny airways.

As you feed your baby, you can observe them coordinating their little mouths and tongues to repetitively suck, swallow and breathe during feedings. It seems like a simple task to suck and swallow, but believe it or not it’s very hard work.  Your baby is using 26 muscles and activating 6 cranial nerves to coordinate for each safe and efficient swallow to take place.

After all that cyclical muscle coordination, your baby will naturally grow tired and will take a pause from drinking their bottle to take a breath; this is called catch up breathing. Catch up breathing is a natural, short 8 to 10 second break that helps your baby stay coordinated during newborn feedings. Your baby should naturally re-initiate sucking on their bottle after this short time.

If your baby takes a pause from newborn feeding that extends beyond 10 seconds and begins to fall back to sleep, you can seize this opportunity for child-led burping, give them a gentle cue to re-initiate the feeding by slowly turning the nipple, or by using the nipple to apply gentle downward stroking along their tongue.

Once your baby has finished the feeding, their body will move forward with the process of digestion leaving just enough time for you to coo and snuggle with your newborn before they return to their slumber to rest all their muscles their next mealtime.

Isn’t it amazing how our bodies work?