Suck pads, which develop the last few weeks in utero, fill the oral cavity to help generate intraoral pressure for efficient milk transfer and provide support and stability to the tongue and nipple during feeding. Some infants, including those born prematurely, don't have fully developed suck pads, which can result in:
+Fatigue with prolonged feedings
+Inadequate/inefficient nutritional intake
While cheek support can be used to reduce intraoral space and improve milk transfer, it also increases the rate of milk flow, which can cause baby to become disorganized in their suck-swallow-breathe coordination. This may look like coughing, choking, or loss of milk from the corners of the mouth.
Breast or bottle feeding provide the foundation for future feeding skills. Dysfunction and negative early feeding experiences can lead to difficulty transitioning to solids, or aversions and picky eating behaviors later on.
If you have concerns, it's important to reach out to a feeding professional early. We want feeding to be a positive experience for you and your baby, and to support oral motor skills.