Supporting Feeding Goals By Addressing Body Tension

Supporting infants for feeding involves not only assessing tongue, lip, and jaw movements but also looking at any tension that may be present in the body and how that may be affecting feeding. If we identify tension and/or fascial strain patterns, we can make recommendations to appropriate bodyworkers such as PT/CST/CFT practitioners who address tension and fascia. 

You may be asking- where does tension even come from on such a young child? We are talking about 0-3 years old children/babies here; how do they already have tension patterns? How is that even possible? 

Infants can be born with excess tension due to the way they were positioned in the womb, the birth process, birth trauma, and/or oral tethers. Once they enter the world they often get placed in a car seat just days after being born to go home from the hospital. Then at home infants are placed in swings, bouncers, and other “container” type seats/loungers that inhibit various movement patterns. 

Ever heard a newborn baby referred to as “super strong” or hear someone say  “look at the way they hold their head up?” That is tension! Newborns should not be “strong” or be able to hold their head up. If they are strong and/or holding their head up, it is due to excess tension in the body! (I experienced this with both of my kids…if only I knew then what I know now!)

Tension is something we need to be aware of as we begin to address feeding goals in any of our patients. We can encourage parents to give their babies space for movement, which may help to release some tension. 

Many times infants are placed in “containers” like swings, chairs, bouncers, etc for long stretches of time – and this inhibits movement! While we aren’t against these things per se, they definitely have their place and can be so helpful, we do encourage time outside of these containers that allows babies to move their bodies in all directions! 

Sometimes, tension interferes with feeding goals and may be best addressed with a referral to a bodyworker. 

It’s important as feeding therapists that we look at the whole picture in regards to what is impacting feeding, and make referrals and recommendations as needed on a case-by-case basis. 

You might be amazed at how much movement the tongue begins to make once tensions patterns have been resolved. Afterall, you may have heard, we are connected by the webbing system of the fascia from our head all the way down to our toes.