Is your baby having difficulty putting on weight, eating pureed foods, OR taking in a higher volume of milk from their bottle? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you. I’m going to share with you two super helpful oral motor tools that were passed onto me for our daughter Lua who is currently undergoing feeding therapy to strengthen her oral motor skills AND to help her take in more milk volume. She’s currently 6 months old “corrected” age. Hopefully, these tools help your little one’s oral skills like our sweet Lua.
Let’s get started!
This original post is featured on my other blog, Mono Mono Twins. 🙂
First, What Are Oral Motor Skills?
As a parent, you may have come across the term ‘oral motor skills’ about your baby’s development.
Simply put, oral motor skills refer to the use and coordination of the muscles in the mouth and jaw. This skill set is essential for your baby’s ability to breastfeed or bottle-feed, chew food, and as they grow older, for speech and language development.
Keep in mind ALL babies develop at their own pace. Being aware of your babe’s oral motor skills can help you identify any potential issues early on so you know how to support your little one as they grow and meet these important milestones.
Speaking of milestones, what IF your baby is having difficulty eating or feeding?
Here are some things to be on the lookout for.
Signs of Oral Motor Delays
As a mama or parent, you may be getting the gut feeling that something is “off” when it comes to your baby’s bottle-drinking or eating habits. There are a few telltale signs that can indicate your little one may be struggling in this area if they are:
- Gagging or choking during feeds
- Difficulty latching onto a bottle or breast
- Struggling to swallow or suck
- Unable to take in a higher volume of formula or breastmilk
- Struggling to put on weight
- Difficulty with coordinated mouth movements like smiling or sticking out their tongue
If you notice any of these signs and are concerned, it’s important to discuss them with your pediatrician or healthcare provider.
As I write this, our Lua is having difficulty putting on weight.
Sometimes she will gag or choke during feeds and yo-yo with the milk volume she takes in. There is no rhyme or reason to it, every day is different.
As mentioned, she is currently doing feeding therapy to work on these issues. So I want to share with you two tools we are currently using to help strengthen her oral motor skills with:
- Muscle strength for eventually learning how to chew food
- Boosting muscle control and strength with the “sucking” motion when she takes a bottle (to help her take in more volume)
This ONE Oral Motor Tool Strengthens The Mouth Muscles
I was introduced to ARK Therapeutics by Lua’s feeding therapist. This company specializes in oral feeding tools. What’s EVEN better is you can order it online through Amazon.
What I love about this feeding tool is it’s a textured grabber AND a teething tool in one. Woop!
This is the one we got for our twin girls. Having twins, I got two colors (pink and green) so I knew which one belonged to who.
The gripper handle is textured to promote a nice sensory experience.
And the long straight portion is to help your baby chew on it in the back of their mouth to help stimulate the “chewing” muscles for learning how to eat.
Many teether toys are round and do not allow your baby to chew it in the back of their mouth like this one.
Word of Caution: Supervise your little one using this teether/grabber toy because the long portion can potentially gag your little one if they try to stick it into the back of their mouth too far. You can also support your baby by holding this chew toy to guide it and hold it in the mouth to work out those muscles. For babies under 6 months, I recommend this smaller chew toy instead.
Short Clip: How To Use The ARK Textured Grabber/Teething Tool
Here’s a short clip to show you how to use it.
This ONE Oral Motor Tool Strengthens Feeding Skills
The EZ Spoon Firm by Beckman Oral Motor is another feeding tool recommended for Lua by her feeding therapist.
We use it to guide the pureed food into the back side of Lua’s mouth by turning the spoon sideways when she goes to eat (see short clip below).
This movement encourages her to learn how to chew and use more of her mouth muscles. The small narrow feeding bowl makes it easy to do this.
Soon, she will be eating solid foods and will need to learn how to chew. This feeding tool is a great early intervention strategy for kiddos who need to work on chewing and biting skills.
There’s a firm spoon and a soft spoon with a non-slip textured handle. I got both of these spoons to try out and like them equally.
Short Clip: How To Use The Beckman Oral Motor EZ Spoon
Here’s a short clip to show you how to use it.
How can I help my baby with oral motor skills?
There are plenty of simple activities you can do with your babe to make a difference!
One great way to get started is by offering your baby plenty of opportunities to practice sucking, biting, and chewing on different textures and shapes. From soft teething toys to crunchy puffs, there are all sorts of safe and age-appropriate items you can introduce to help your sweet one to build up their oral muscles and coordination.
Additionally, you may want to consider incorporating some gentle massage or stretching techniques into your routine to help your baby relax and feel more comfortable with different types of oral movements.
What are oral motor exercises?
Oral motor exercises are simple movements that can help improve the strength and coordination of the muscles in your mouth and throat. These exercises can benefit individuals of all ages, especially those with speech or feeding difficulties.
By practicing simple oral motor exercises, you can increase your ability to chew, swallow, and talk.
What oral motor exercises can I do with my baby?
One idea is to let your baby suck on a clean cloth or washcloth, which strengthens their mouth and tongue muscles. You can also give them a soft teething ring or toy to chew on, which helps with jaw development. Another option is to encourage your baby to make different sounds, such as clicking their tongue or blowing raspberries. These exercises not only promote oral motor skills but also help with language development.
What toys strengthen mouth muscles?
Chew toys, can do wonders in improving jaw strength and tongue control. Soft teething rings, rubber balls, and even plush animals with chewable limbs are also great toys to consider. You can even try introducing toys with varied textures and shapes, as these can help improve oral sensitivity and dexterity.
What oral motor skills should a 7-9-month-old have?
- Full lip closure, which helps to drink from a straw or a sippy cup with ease
- Able to move the tongue from side to side, a skill that becomes important as your baby experiments with different foods and textures
- Diagonal or circular rotary movements with the jaw, which help with chewing and the ability to swallow more complex foods
How can I strengthen my baby’s jaw?
First, try giving your little one teething toys to chew on. These toys are designed to provide resistance, which helps to strengthen the jaw muscles.
You could also try encouraging your baby to drink from a sippy cup or straw cup instead of a bottle as this helps to promote the development of the jaw and facial muscles.
And finally, don’t forget about tummy time! This simple activity builds neck and shoulder strength, which is important for jaw development.
To Wrap It Up
My daughter Lua is a true testament to the importance of targeting these key milestones when it comes to using oral motor tools. From where she began to where she is now, I’m continually amazed at her progress. She has gained more strength in the volume she can drink from her bottle AND eating pureed foods. I can attest that these two tools work:
All babies develop at different paces so just have patience with your little one.
Again, if you’re concerned about any of the oral motor skills mentioned in this post, reach out to your healthcare provider immediately and they will guide you in the right direction.
With the proper resources and love, your baby has the opportunity to thrive! Remember, as parents, we are our children’s most important advocates in life so let’s continue to nurture, protect and love them unconditionally- just like we do our sweet Lua.
Until the next post, I’m sending you all the positive parenting vibes!
What other oral motor tools do you recommend? Let me know in the comments below. Your input means a lot and helps other fellow parents who read this post!
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About The Author
Linds is the proud mom of two little miracles, Mono Mono twin girls, and one AMAZING older bro! She is the founder and content creator of the blog Mono Mono Twins, the blog Intensive Therapy for Kids, and Co-Founder of The LENN Foundation (a 510c3 that helps children with cerebral palsy receive grants for intensive therapies to thrive). ♥
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