In a way, speech therapy begins naturally for all babies on day one with eating, crying, yawning, rooting, burping... As those instinctual actions occur, a baby’s brain receives information and mouth muscle coordination beings. A baby’s brain also receives information about its mouth through stimulation, texture, and pressure (as well as taste... but stage one babies are usually getting only one yummy taste via bottle or breast.) Our babies need a little bit more information and more practice as the mouth masters its jobs.
Enter the oral toolkit, a treasure chest of goodies you can use to orally stimulate and train your baby. Most items can be purchased in a department store or baby store, some must be ordered online, and for those on a tight budget... your fingers are free :-)
The Nuk Brush
The Nuk brush is great for oral stimulation inside and outside of a baby’s mouth. On the outside, you can roll it down from just under your baby’s nose to her upper lip. You can do this same movement all the way around her mouth, rolling toward the mouth with each stroke. This stimulates lip closure. Used inside the mouth, the textures expose your baby to new sensations. Later on it can be used to introduce trace amounts of food to a beginning eater. $3.70
Red Cross Infant Oral Care Kit
This kit has a couple very useful tools in it. The finger infant toothbrush is used for gum tracing exercises and applying pressure to the lower jaw to encourage and strengthen the bite reflex. The gum stimulator is perfect for tongue walking and for gently pressing the center of the tongue to encourage your baby to make the bowl shape with her tongue. You can use the infant toothbrush on occasion in place of the Nuk to expose your baby to different textures. $7.99
The First Years Massaging Action Teether
The First Year's "Star" teether has different textures on each star tip. When baby puts pressure on a tip, the teether vibrates and wakes up the mouth muscles. This is also a great tool for demonstrating cause and effect. Though it is slightly big for a newborn, it can be used by a parent in small doses to stimulate the baby’s lips and cheeks. This teether is easier to trigger than other brands. 7.99
Easy to hold, your baby will love to mouth and bite on the Grabber teether thereby strengthening jaw muscles and control. It is a smooth teether and great for babies with who are showing signs of texture aversion. $6.50
A pacifier is good for letting your baby practice sucking and keeping his tongue down. I had some unused orthodontically correct pacifiers (my boys wouldn’t take them) and I tried to use them but was quickly corrected by our speech therapist who said the shape is not good for babies with Ds. Who knew? The hospital style Soothie is a good paci to use and luckily most hospitals will give you a handful on your way out the door but if not, you can get them online. Two for $4.79.
Nice clean fingers can be used to tongue tap, press the jaws to stimulate the bite reflex, rub the gums, gently pinch-pull the lips and cheeks, and trace lines on baby’s cheek skin. Your speech therapist, or a lactation consultant who has experience with children who have Ds, can show you many exercises you can use. You can also find detailed oral stimulation techniques in the books, Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome and The Down Syndrome Nutrition Handbook: A Guide to Promoting Healthy Lifestyles.
The Z-Vibe is a great tool for babies who have moved on to stage two but it is too powerful for newborns. I will do a post on this tool in the future.
Do you have a tip or trick you used for your baby's oral aerobics? Do you love/hate any of the tools in the toolkit? Share your thoughts with us.