It may seem strange that your tiny baby is being referred to a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT). However part of an SLT's role is to look at feeding and swallowing as well as communication.

The SLT role on the neonatal unit is primarily in assessing and supporting babies in safely and efficiently establishing oral feeding (that is breast or bottle feeds by mouth). This specialised input is given to babies who have been identified as needing some extra help in preparing for or starting to feed by mouth, for example babies who were born very early, or have chronic lung disease.

The Speech and Language Therapist may start working with you and your baby well before your baby is ready to have any feeds by mouth to support pre feeding development and experiences. Early input may focus on understanding how to make your baby as comfortable as possible with tube feeds, learning about and understanding how your baby communicates through their subtle behaviours and helping your baby to have opportunities to suck and feel calm and comfortable in feeding positions.

To be able to start breast or bottle feeding, your baby will need to have developed the ability to co-ordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing.  Your baby will also need to have stable breathing and a gastrointestinal system that is able to cope with milk feeds. The SLT therefore works closely with other members of the neonatal team.

For older babies on the unit the SLT may also provide some input regarding early pre-verbal communication development. Not all babies on the unit will need input from the SLT.

The SLTs for the neonatal unit are Emily and Sophie. They provide a service to the unit Monday to Friday.  If you would like to talk to Emily or Sophie, or feel your baby would benefit from SLT input please talk to your baby's doctors or nurses who will arrange contact.

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