Originally published on July 9, 2018.
One part of my job is working with premature and ill babies in our local Special Care Baby Unit. It's a role I particularly enjoy, because I've seen the difference it can make long-term to a child's feeding outcomes if Speech and Language Therapy is involved.
But people often express surprise about being seen by a Speech and Language Therapist when their babies are so small. My most common response is, "but she doesn't talk yet!". Just one side effect of having a job title that doesn't really cover what we actually do all day!
So what does a Speech and language Therapist (SALT/SLT) do in neonatal environments like SCBU and NICU?
Primarily the role of the SLT is to promote practises around feeding your baby that are safe, respectful of your baby's medical and developmental status and which lay the foundations for a lifetime of happy feeding experiences, for you and your baby.
Feeding can come to be seen as another medical intervetion but it is so much more than that. It is very important that feeding progress is made at the baby's pace, and not led by the pressures of the medical or discharge plan. One of the jobs of the Speech and Language Therapist is to advocate for your baby and their feeding, and try to make sure that the medical decisions made do not impact on a baby's feeding any more than they need to.
We know that pre-term babies can be vulnerable to devloping longer-term feeding problems, for lots of reasons. In the next few posts we are going to explore some areas around feeding a pre-term baby that I hope will help you develop safe confident feeding practises.