Parents of infants often evaluate their own competency as parents on how their baby is feeding and achieving growth and development. It's important to listen to your baby.

A method of feeding used in the NICU is called the SOFFI Method©: Supporting Oral Feeding in Fragile Infants. This method is meant to increase positive experiences with feeding for both parent and infant, based on the assumption that your baby is always communicating with you through behavioral and physiological states and movement.

As a parent, you know when your baby cries, he/she most likely needs to eat, needs a diaper change, or needs more sleep. Your baby can also communicate through other ways. This communication is the basis for our therapy of infants in the NICU that have problems feeding.

Ways your baby is communicating through behavioral state:

  • Alertness
  • Fussiness
  • Sleepiness

Ways your baby is communicating through physiological state:

  • Color. Most babies are a pink color. Watch for duskiness, paleness, blueness, and being flushed
  • Breathing pattern”regular, calm breathing vs. gasping, panting, coughing
  • Spitting up or vomiting
  • Regular stool or constipation/diarrhea

Ways your baby is communicating through motor signs:

  • Tone: how the muscle feels” no noticeable differences vs. a tight or floppy feel to the muscles
  • Posture: flexed posture, rounded face, body, legs, and arms is best
  • Movement: smooth movements vs. tremors  or flailing

In the NICU, and for infants being seen in the home, we watch a baby's communication and make modifications according to what the baby is telling us. We can change how much, how often, and when a baby feeds. We can also use other techniques, such as modifying feeding positions, changing nipple flow rate or bottle systems, and much more to create a better feeding experience.

Speech-Language Pathologist provide education to parents about these techniques and ways their baby is communicating to enable parents to become an expert feeder of their own baby. It is important to respond to your baby's cues to build trust and positive experiences with feeding since these early experiences with feeding lead to improved feeding and eating as your child grows.

If you have concerns about your baby's communication or eating, talk to your baby's pediatrician.

Contributed by Jami Cazier, M.S., CCC-SLP - Jami is a Speech Pathologist at EIRMC. She attended Brigham Young University-Provo, earning a Master's Degree in Communication Disorders. She is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist through the American Speech Language Hearing Association and the state of Idaho.

Resources:�Sundseth-Ross, E. (2015). The SOFFI Method © Supporting Oral Feeding in Fragile Infants. Lecture sponsored by Education Resources, Inc. in Houston, Texas.