Self-feeding for children aged 0-6 months

Self-feeding for children aged 0-6 months

27 May, 2020

Self-feeding: part 1

It has been 2 weeks between blogs as life has gotten busy with our beginning the change back to in rooms from providing therapy exclusively by Telehealth    I thought we would have a change from gross motor development and talk about feeding   It is something we get asked about constantly, and as self-feeding involves gaining skills across all areas of development, we will discuss it over a few blog posts.
Self-feeding is an important and complex skill that includes a variety of reflexes, oral-motor, fine motor and gross motor skills, as well as sensory skills. As babies develop and meet new milestones in these areas, so do their feeding skills.
Deb’s key takeaways:
There are several areas of development needed for a baby to feed in the first 6 months.
These include:
General Motor Development
0-2 months
2-4 months
4-6 months
Behaviour Development
2 months
3 months
4-6 months
Specific feeding skills
As well as the general motor and behaviour skills described above, there are particular reflexes and oral motor skills (lip and jaw control) needed for feeding.
Reflexes 0 to 4 months 
Reflexes are automatic and accidental actions that the body does in response to different stimuli. Babies are born with several reflexes to help them find and attach to a nipple or teat to feed, while also protecting their airways. These include:
It’s amazing that newborns have these reflexes to help them feed safely!
Reflexes 4 to 6 months
Oral-Motor Skills 0 to 4 months 
Babies develop their oral-motor skills from when they are still in the womb. Unborn babies have been seen to suck and swallow amniotic fluid from as early as 14-15 weeks in the womb. While in the womb, they also start experiencing different tastes and smells through the amniotic fluid.
Babies are on an all-milk diet from when they are born as their tongue movement is limited by the small space in their mouth up until around 4 months old. They may be drinking milk from the breast or from a bottle. In their first 4 months, you can expect to see some oral-motor skills developing that help them feed. These include:
Oral-Motor Skills 4-6 months
Tips for successful feeding (how to help your baby with feeding):
Tips to encourage oral stimulation:
Possible signs of feeding/swallowing problems:
In the first few months of your baby’s life, their feeding changes from reflex to controlled choice. They move from totally dependent on the breast or bottle to the beginning of solid foods between 4-6 months.
Babies are born with gut feelings, reflexes, and developmental skills to feed from birth. As they grow, these skills get better and develop, and you both are in for an experience of discovery and enjoyment.
If you have any concerns related to your baby’s feeding, contact your community nurse, lactation therapist, or GP.
Keep safe, happy, and well.
By Kristy Allison
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