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Promoting Oral Exploration in the G-Tube Fed Child

Oral exploration is a crucial part of development for a child, including those who are reliant on a G-tube for their primary means of nutrition. This stage of development can often be overlooked in an infant/child who depend on a G-tube for their nutritional intake.

It is important to promote this stage with our G-tube kiddos. Not only can it decrease issues of hypersensitivity down the road, but it can also provide them with a means of self-soothing. Lack of oral exploration and stimulation can often lead to oral aversion, food aversion, and hypersensitivity. Here are some simple activities you can do with our little one to promote oral exploration: (a great time to promote oral stimulation is during their tube feeds)

  • Gradually, massage the external structure of the face. Graze the cheeks, lightly apply pressure to the lips, and continue until your child begins to open their mouth towards stimulation.

  • As your child is comfortable accepting your finger, you can lightly swab the cheeks and massage the gums.

  • Reach for a Soothie or Gumdrop pacifier. Slip your finger into the nipple and continue to stimulate the cheeks and gums. You want to slowly introduce the pacifier to the surface of the tongue.

  • If your infant can grasp your finger, gently guide them in bringing their hand and your finger to their mouth. If willing, allow them to explore their mouth with their fingers.

  • For older children, you can provide them with tools/toys to mouth. A vibrating teether, a rubber toy/teether, or oral sensory chews.

Oral Exploration

If your child is working with a pediatric feeding therapist and the transition to oral feeds is the goal, oral exploration and stimulation can assist in promoting healthy oral patterns, strength, and range of motion. Therapy can play a crucial role during this stage of development. Your feeding therapist can provide you with exercises and stimulation that will not only benefit regarding desensitization and soothing, but they will serve a therapeutic purpose that will serve your child as they transition to PO feeds. It will address specific areas of the oral structure that may or may not present with impairment.

Some of my favorite oral sensory tools can be found below! Please keep in mind, it is important that you consult with a pediatric feeding/speech therapist before diving into using the items below. Introducing some of these items incorrectly can increase oral hypersensitivity and aversion.

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