(KUTV) Babies born early often have some catching up to do. However, speech, physical, and occupational therapists can actually help babies with development starting from day one.
For Michelle Larsen, her daughter was born at 36 weeks. She was extremely sleepy and had a difficult time eating.
“She didn’t have the endurance to feed,” says Michelle.
Feeding challenges are common for late-preterm babies. This is where a team of specialists can help.
“We all specialize in neonatal feeding, swallowing, development, and movement,” says Jen Cieslewicz, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech pathologist at Intermountain Riverton Hospital.
Michelle had members of the developmental team come in and analyze her daughters feeding. The goal was to make eating easier. To do this, they adjusted feeding positions, used a shield to help her latch, and used a slower-flow bottle.
Not only did they help with feeding, but they also worked on movement.
“We’re working a lot with babies that are smaller and have less muscle movement, less muscle tone,” says Cieslewicz.
The third focus is on sensory development. Babies born early process their environment differently than a full-term baby. During the time between baby’s birth date and their original due date, the brain builds a foundation for all motor and sensory development. This is why using appropriate sound, visual, and touch stimulation is crucial.
“We just help them learn to kind of adjust their way of interacting with the baby to what is more appropriate for the baby’s long term development,” says Cieslewicz.
Michelle says the extra help provided in the hospital allowed her daughter to catch up in just a few weeks.
“She was month early so as we got closer to what her due date was, she was doing better,” says Michelle.