Babies grow and change so much from day to day. It can be confusing, or even stressful, to wonder if your baby is on track with eating and speech milestones. In this interview, Emily Hussey from Eats and Speaks discusses milestones and signs that you should look for during your baby’s first year.

All information below is from Emily Hussey of Eats and Speaks. Emily is a Certified Speech Language Pathologist M.S., CCC-SLP/L. Eats and Speaks is a therapist owned private practice located in Byron, Illinois that offers speech and feeding therapy both in their office and in homes. They serve Byron and surrounding areas including Oregon, Stillman Valley, Rockford, Rockton, and Roscoe. For more information, please see Eats and Speaks website.

What milestones and signs should a new parent be looking for when it comes to their babies eating?

We recommend babies begin solids when they can sit unassisted and are showing interest in others’ food, which is around 6 months. Prior to this, baby may not be ready for food due to stability, motor abilities, and gut maturity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solids no earlier than 6 months. 

Prior to introducing solids, providing baby with teethers and allowing exploration with their hands is so important. This allows them to begin working muscles in the face to prep for eating, drinking, and speaking. 

Around 6 months, babies can begin to learn to drink from a straw cup or open cup. We recommend bypassing the sippy cup unless this is a recommendation from a trained feeding therapist. 

When babies are introduced to solids, the tongue and jaw often still work together and you will notice sucking and suckling of food from the spoon. At 6 months, babies do have a nice phasic bite to munch on soft solids and their tongue begins to move to the side to help place food on the gums. 

When purees and soft solids are introduced, there will likely be gagging, which is normal. However, an excessive amount of gagging can make mealtimes worse. 

Remember to read baby’s cues. If he/she turns away then that means they are done. Babies have a tremendous ability to self monitor so as parents, we need to listen to their cues. Above all, have fun with baby and embrace the mess! 

When should a baby be speaking and what’s the progression of those sounds / words / phrases?

At birth-3 months babies smile, coo, and have different cries for different needs. From 4-6 months, babies coo or babble with or without others, make sounds like pa, ba, and mi, and giggle and laugh. When babies are closer to 7-12 months, babbling includes longer strings of sounds (i.e., bababababa). They begin to use gestures and point to things in their environment and imitate sounds made by others. Closer to 12 months, babies will have a few words, but they may not be clear yet. As baby gets older, we’d like to consistently see new words coming in each month. 

What problems or difficulties can a speech delay or feeding issue cause?

Two of the most important parts of life are communicating and nourishing our bodies. Delays in speech and language can make life stressful for parents and caregivers and impact a child’s ability to learn later when they begin their school years. Delays in feeding can impact nutritional needs being met and overall health and well being. Many times though, a delay in speech or feeding is merely a symptom of other problems, especially as a child gets older. Things like the child’s airway, mouth structures, function of their tongue, lips, and jaw, or gut health can be the root cause for these delays. When these are addressed, we see children thrive! 

When should a parent become concerned about their children’s eating or speaking habits? (What age or what signs / symptoms should they be looking for).

Overall, parents may want to seek help when the child or the parents are consistently frustrated with communication or feeding. If you are not able to understand the child often then it’s best to reach out to a speech language pathologist. In regards to feeding, obvious things like weight gain warrant a visit with a feeding therapist, but also stressful mealtimes. If a parent finds themselves dreading mealtime and the child is anxious, then this likely warrants some further digging. 

If a parent ignores speech or feeding troubles, what can happen? Does a child just grow out of it?

Most situations, the wait and see approach doesn’t help the parents or the child. Feeding issues, even early, often persist and the child rarely grows out of them. If anything, they learn to compensate instead of thrive and truly develop. Intervening early when the child’s brain is ready to learn is best practice! 

What makes Eats + Speaks approach different?

Our approach looks at the whole child. Oftentimes, speech and feeding problems are just a symptom of a different issue, such as a tongue or lip tie, airway concerns, or even gut health issues. We figure out the root cause, address that, and make sure you are referred to other specialists to help us fix the issue rather than teach the child to compensate. We don’t want your child to be in therapy for years and years, so we will always do our best to dig and treat the problem instead of putting a bandaid on it. 

What programs and services does Eats + Speaks offer?

We will begin offering our early language groups again and possibly some social language groups! These will likely begin this spring! Connect with us here and we will contact you when our group sessions open again!

For more information on Eats + Speaks, visit their website.

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