Paediatric Speech Pathology clinicians were given international insights into the latest research and practices into identifying and treating the factors impacting oral feeding in fragile infants at a workshop hosted by Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) this week.
The workshop was attended by speech pathologists from Australia and New Zealand working with infants and children with feeding and swallowing problems.
The GCUH Paediatric Speech Pathology team, Angie Canning, Rachael Oorloff and Louise Van Dijk, who assess and treat very preterm and medically fragile infants in GCUH’s Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) and Special Care Nurseries (SCN) with feeding and swallowing difficulties, invited Dr Erin Ross, Ph.D. to present the two day course.
US-based Dr Ross developed the SOFFI feeding method which is currently recommended by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.
Dr Ross said over half of babies who are born preterm or have medical issues are going to struggle with weight gain or their parents are going to say feeding is a challenge for them.
“About 60-80 per cent of children with any type of medical or developmental problem will have feeding problems at some point and so we’re talking about how we get them off to the right start,” Dr Ross said.
“Part of it is because medical advances are helping us to save babies that are younger or have more medical issues but those babies are the ones that grow up to have a lot of feeding problems.”
Dr Ross said the course held in partnership with Gold Coast Health, Griffith University and the Menzies Health Institute Queensland, emphasised strategies to facilitate infant abilities and develop caregiver feeding skills.
“This workshop is about thinking holistically as clinicians about the evidence behind what we’re doing and how we can get information to families and other allied health professionals so feeding can be a fun, enjoyable thing,” she said.
“I find wherever I am around the world, babies are very similar and so are the struggles we have in trying to help them learn to eat but practices differ. It’s hard to keep up with the new research that’s coming out if you’re not in a university or hospital setting.”
The Gold Coast Health Paediatric Speech Pathology unit in conjunction with Griffith University/Gold Coast Health Research Fellow Dr Kelly Weir, a researcher in paediatric feeding and swallowing problems, are undertaking a number of research projects to support infants and families in the GCUH Newborn Care Nursery. These projects include;
- Evaluating optimal teats to support coordinated suck-swallow-breathe coordination in bottle feeding.
- Evaluating whether infants are safe to orally feed when they are receiving high flow nasal cannula oxygen and continuous positive airway pressure for respiratory support.
- An international survey of professionals providing care to infants in the NICU and SCN as to their feeding practices for infants on non-invasive ventilation.