Problem-Solving Late Preterm Weaning Breast to Bottle

Question:

The parent of a client approached me about a three-month baby refusing bottle feeds. Baby had some issues at birth with feeding and was in NICU for one week due to respiratory insufficiency, born at 36 weeks. Since 37 weeks, baby has been exclusively breastfed with no issues and appropriate weight gain. Does anyone have any techniques to facilitate transition to bottle with pumped breast milk? Any bottles that you have found to work better than others

Answer:

There is likely a myriad of factors that likely are combining to result in this former late preterm’s difficulty transitioning from breast to bottle.

Because she is a former late preterm, it opens up so many possible interacting etiologies that need to be peeled apart and looked at in dynamic relationship with each other. Why she is “refusing” bottle feedings is the key to how we intervene.

Most late preterms born at 36 weeks are in the newborn nursery. The fact that she required neonatal intensive care and had respiratory insufficiency suggests that respiratory co-morbidities were significant. There may have been other co-morbdities, which are not uncommon for late preterms, but we do not know that.

The typical approaches for a healthy term infant with the same challenges cannot be applied to a former late preterm. While she is now 3 months, she is a little over 2 months adjusted age, and that difference is essential to consider, as it provides the context in which we interpret her behaviors. Born 3 weeks early, her sensory-motor experiences early-on were different. Her postural integrity may still be lagging somewhat and may predispose her to more readily breastfeed because less adaptations are required posturally at breast. Because the unique and exquisite physiology of breastfeeding creates ” islands of stability” for breathing for preterms, her preferences for breastfeeding may indeed be physiologic – i.e., at breast she can control the flow to create “windows of opportunity” to integrate breathing with sucking. That isn’t possible with most mad-made nipples. Man-made nipples not only often flow faster, but the infant cannot control the flow from a man-made nipple. It flows based on what nipple the caregiver chooses and the infant can only “respond” to what flow has been selected. The flowrate differences may be part of the picture.

Based on that, I would likely not consider alternative feeding procedure that require this former late preterm to manage a less controllable flow from a Medella Soft Feeder, syringe, cup, straws. While that may be supportive in a former healthy term infant, it may create more struggle for this infant given her history.

I would suggest swaddled sidelying, a slow flow nipple (perhaps Dr. Brown’s preemie flow), ad infant-guided co-regulated pacing to support the kind of flow rate control that this infant has learned and appreciated at the breast. Always offer the nipple via her rooting response, as she is used to rooting actively with breastfeeding, versus” placing the nipple” in her mouth or” putting it in her mouth”. I would also avoid any tendency to prod with the bottle, as she is not prodded at breast. The less adaptability required when she goes from breast to bottle, and the more physiologic stability we create by supporting breathing, the more likely we will be to see progress. We also want to foster a positive feeding experience versus focusing on how much the infant takes, i.e., emptying the bottle, which may unfortunately come into play as bottle feeding is offered. Supporting maintaining the mother-infant relationship will be essential.

I hope this is helpful.

Catherine

Problem-Solving Poor Feeding Post Jejunal Atresia Repair

Question:

I was just consulted on an infant with a history of jejunal atresia with repair. He was born at 33 weeks GA and is now 41 weeks. He reportedly has consumed 50-90mL adlib on demand per physician of breast milk via bottle. Mother reports feeding every 3-4 hours. The OT that has been working with this little one has incorporated use of a slow flow nipple and external pacing which reportedly assists with coordination and reduces frequency of adverse events but the infant continues to demonstrate physiological instability. During some feedings he demonstrates coughing within a few minutes of onset of feeding. Mother reports that any change or disruption of coordination results in change of physiological stability. These episodes occur during as well as after feeding in which he is demonstrating coughing, occasional color change, desaturation, and bradycardia (both during and after feeds). The RN and mother indicate that on a couple of occasions at night, he has required blow-by. No significant spit ups noted, however, RN reports that on one occasion, small amount observed on external nares. They have reportedly attempted various nipples, positioning, and have also tried breast feeding (which resulted in a significant episode). Reflux strategies/precautions have already been implemented but without much improvement.

Reduced coordination is an issue, however, also suspect EER as piece to this. I am trying to determine differential and plan on completing MBS to get a better idea of swallow physiology. Does anyone have any experience with children with this particular diagnosis or thoughts on this case?

Answer:

The jejunal atresia repair in and of itself does not explain the decompensation you report. All we know about history is the infant is a preterm born at 33 weeks. Are there any other co-morbidities such as Neuro or respiratory? Post-op he may have some lower branch of the Vagus-driven atypical sensory GI responses but that would not typically lead to the clinical behaviors you describe. What is his WOB like at baseline and how does it vary with the aerobic demands of feeding? Does the infant otherwise present as a typical former 33 weaker at his current adjusted age? Can the events appear to be averted by co-regulated pacing that is more strict with an Ultra-preemie nipple? Without knowing the answers to these questions, I would be asking to complete an instrumental assessment to objectify swallowing physiology and determine if there is normal physiology which is being altered under certain conditions or if physiology is impaired, what the etiology is (or etiologies are) that lead to bolus mid-direction. The clinical behaviors you describe in this neonate are ones I typically see associated with aspiration. To continue to feed the infant despite volumes ingested given these adverse overt events does not support neuroprotection and may lead to feeding refusals.

I do not think the thermal stimulation suggested would be advisable as we have at this point no known etiology for the events observed. Every intervention should be thoughtfully matched with clinical behaviors and etiology, and used within an evidence-based framework. At this juncture in your differential, the data don’t lead us in that direction.

Of course EER (Extra Esophageal Reflux) may indeed be part of what is happening but we cannot assume that. It is possible that EER events are co-occurring during swallowing, which could result in bolus mis-direction if the infant’s swallowing physiology is indeed altered in the moment by the EER. It is possible the decompensation observed during PO feeding is due solely to EER events (bolus mis-direction from below) that is occurring both during feeding and at non-feeding times. Hopefully an incidental finding of EER would then be captured by the radiologist during the swallow study. Alternatively, the events of decompensation observed clinically may indeed reflect a true dysphagia –but if so, the etiology (or etiologies) can then be determined during the swallow study. An instrumental assessment will give us an impression of the possibly multiple factors impacting the dynamic swallow pathway. This then can inform the differential and then guide both the SLP and the entire team in terms of next steps for intervention as well as further diagnostic workup.

I hope this is helpful.

Catherine

Shaker Seminars at Colorado Children’s Hospital

Just returned from a wonderful week in Denver teaching at Colorado Children’s Hospital. What an amazing facility with a world class team. No wonder they continue to be in the Top Ten Children’s Hospitals in the country.

Those attending came from across the US and Canada. It is always such an opportunity for all of us to learn, when we can network with such a large group that reflects perspectives from many teams and cities.

A few pictures below of me with my colleague, fellow instructor and friend, Theresa Gager, at the entrance by their logo, on our arrival.

Denver was beautiful, especially the mountains and skies. Just being out side was refreshing, especially for me coming from hot humid Orlando !

We also could not resist this iron sculpture of rabbits with long ears so here we are having fun. Life is so short we have to have fun along the way at every opportunity.

Hope our paths cross down the road.

Catherine

eColorado bunnies hosp

Problem-Solving Swallowing after Supraglottoplasty

Question from Jennifer SLP: I’m curious to know your thoughts and/or procedures for feeding evals post supraglottoplasty? Do you always do an MBS? Only when indicated? How soon after supraglottoplasty do you do an MBSS (if you do one)? What are your treatment plans/outpatient recommendations if they are not safe to PO? Thank you!

Answer:
It really depends on the infant’s/child’s history and co-morbidities, as of course each has a unique presentation and requires an individualized differential.

In general, when co-morbidities require a supraglottoplasty is recommended, there is typically an associated adverse effect on swallowing physiology being appreciated pre-op. The post-op swallowing physiology, however, is not always improved. It is sometimes more problematic after the supraglottoplasty, which can actually worsen airway protection and further alter physiology.

The related co-morbidities (e.g., prematurity, sensory-motor issues etc.) and altered pre-op system function (GI, respiratory, neuro etc.) will further affect post-op results.

Perhaps work with the ENT/surgeon/attending as to timing of small PO trial with ST to get the infant/child ready for radiology and then objectively determine any adverse effects along the swallow pathway present post-op, or any impairment/alteration that was appreciated pre-op and persists post-op. Sometimes surgeons assume the supraglottoplasty will “fix” swallowing and that may not be the case, in my experience.

Then here is the updated information from Jennifer, SLP:
This has been really helpful. I’ve been working with the ENT, he doesn’t have an idea of when exactly she will be “healed” from her procedure, but we both agree she may need more time. Here is the case in full:

Ex 36 weeker, brought to hospital at 1 week old for stridor. Found to have severe laryngomalacia – obstructive with the arytenoids collapsing in the airway. Made NPO because (Thank you Catherine – I’ve been to your course!) she couldn’t breathe – so she couldn’t eat. Trialed taste trials, but continued to have increased work of breathing and desats were significant. Had a supraglottalplasty on 9/5/16. Trailed taste trials again on 9/8/16 with little to no stridor but multiple swallows (x5) with each bolus and increased congestion with trials. Continued with taste trials for a week. Medical team pushed for a MBSS, they were worried we were being too conservative as a baby post supraglottalplasty may still continue to have noisy feeding. In the MBSS the baby aspirated on thin and nectar consistencies, even using a preemie nipple, 1-suck pacing, sidelying, 1/2 filled nipple. She had really poor swallow function observed in the MBSS – overall weak sluggish movements, multiple swallows, aspiration on primary swallows and residuals. We are continuing to trial tastes with her conservatively – but no progress thus far. She is now term, and the ENT believes she probably had a poor swallow and once they lasered away the tissue covering her airway, her swallow dysfunction was more obvious. She has no other known co-morbidities.

I’m just wondering when we need to make decisions about her long-term plan? Do we give her more time? Also, has anyone worked with a baby like this and have any successful treatment plans? Thank you so much.

My response:
Thanks for more information. Are there other less obvious co-morbidities, as this sounds atypical for a late preterm (36 weeks GA) with an “isolated” laryngomalacia. What was the etiology (or etiologies) for the aspiration? Were the events silent? Was there any other form of bolus mis-direction? We know she otherwise has no known co-morbdities, but is she presenting normally (neuro, postural tone/movement patterns, oral-pharyngeal reflexes, saliva swallows)? I suspect not, based on what you have told us.

I agree with the ENT that the infant probably had swallowing dysfunction pre-op and once they lasered away the tissue covering her airway, I took away “protection for the airway” and her primary swallowing dysfunction “declared itself”. EER/LPR may be playing a part as it is commonly associated with both LM and silent aspiration according to the research. Wonder if ENT saw evidence of EER/LPR when he scoped her? Is she being treated for EER/LPR? Could there be aspiration both from below and above that might be contributing?

Since this presentation is atypical for a late preterm with LM –are they doing a further work up to help elucidate the bigger picture likely affecting the integrity of her swallow? It is perhaps a separate issue from the original need for a supraglottoplasty and that may help to guide prognosis and plan.

Given the nature of the swallowing impairment you describe, and the interventions so thoughtfully trialed in radiology, I suspect this is not going to resolve in the near future. Keep us posted on the results of a further workup as that should help decision-making. Continued pacifier dips and positive oral-sensory-motor input will be important to keep her system primed for return to PO feeding, as co-morbidities and safety permit.

Erika Lee, one of my SLP colleagues from Oklahoma, reminds us that “the purpose of supraglottoplasty is to improve the infant’s breathing; and if that is accomplished, then feeding usually gets better. The supraglottoplasty usually delivers benefits immediately; but then the effects get better over time as the surgery site heals (especially if a laser was used). Surgeons typically assess the entire airway and palpate the interarytenoid space to assure that there is no laryngeal cleft.” The just published manuscript is attached.

I hope this is helpful.

Please click below for the manuscript…

Supraglottoplasty Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2011 (818-22)

Cue-Based Feeding Seminar

An NICU SLP asked me about resources for training neonatal nurses on feeding stress cues and stop signs. An SLP I know from Minnesota, Wendy, suggested the SLP take a look at the EFS. I responded to the post and share it with you here since it will let you know what you will hear about at our October 15-16, 2016 EFS training seminar in San Antonio TX this year!

Hi Wendy,
Thank you for your kind comments about The Early Feeding Skills Assessment Tool (EFS). It has evolved over the years as a wonderful guide to cue-based feeding in the NICU. I especially am proud of it because it looks at feeding from the infant’s perspective and is grounded in physiology. It reflects how I conceptualize feeding in the NICU, which I refer to as “infant-guided”, i.e., a dynamic approach based on contingent co-regulation between infant and caregiver. That maybe a parent/family member, a nurse, or a therapist.

A little background for list serve readers. Both working in NICUs at the time, Dr. Suzanne Thoyre and I first collaborated in the early 1980s about infant feeding in the NICU and how to describe infant’s feeding skills. When Dr. Thoyre, as a part of her NICU research, wanted to teach mothers how to describe their infant’s feeding problems during phone follow-up post-NICU discharge, the EFS began to take shape. After using the EFS for years and working with each other to continue to improve it, we published it and began to share it with others in 2005. With multiple revisions, as research and our learning continues, it is now used in several NICUs across the US, both by nurses and SLPs as they assess infant feeding, and as Wendy mentioned, with families to help them understand their infant’s communication and physiology during feeding, using a common language with staff.

The EFS assesses the preterm infant’s ability to maintain physiologic stability during feeding, remain engaged in feeding, organize oral-motor function and coordinate sucking and swallowing with breathing. The EFS, by the nature of its design, considers not just oral-motor skills but rather, the whole infant, from posture, to physiology, to breathing, to state, to coordination, to swallowing, to oral-motor skills as well.

Beyond that, it focuses on the integration of these domains for function, all within a developmental care framework. It is unique in that it recognizes the value of understanding the infant’s adaptive responses to the feeding task, and how they are instructive to the caregiver.

The tool is also based on dynamic systems theory (that multiple systems synergistically affect each other during feeding) and these systems are assessed dynamically throughout an entire feeding, to arrive at a gestalt. Capturing variability across the entire feeding is a critical part of the analysis/integration of information. The items are designed to capture the variability in the infant’s learning of the foundational components of feeding skills, the continuum of that learning, and the emergence of skills; so it assesses whether component skills are not observed, are emerging, or are indeed consistently expressed. It is often used serially to capture developmental progress in feeding over time.

The EFS leads the caregiver, by the nature of how it is designed, to the interventions that naturally flow from the results of the assessment. It profiles interventions to support adaptive function during feeding and swallowing, and therefore interventions for safety.

The EFS is user friendly in that it is not focused on understanding and identifying only isolated oral-motor components but rather making sense of what all caregivers “see” every day when they feed preterm infants–the infant’s communication/cues during feeding. It provides a common language about feeding terminology (such as what do we mean by an infant is “pacing” himself, or what is “coordinated”, for example) to help all team members, including families, get on the same page, so conversations and report have common meaning.

We do require training on use of the tool (offered at least yearly) to assure implementation in keeping with its intended purpose and parameters. SLPs typically then go back and teach their own NICU staff with resources provided during the training. I am so glad the EFS has advanced infant-guided feeding in your NICU!

Please Click Link Below For More Details:

Cue Based Seminar 2016

Tube Fed Children: Management, Weaning and Emotional Considerations

Working with our infants and children who are tube fed can be challenging. This recent article by a well-respected interdisciplinary team highlights some key perspectives and current data that can inform your therapy practice. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Caring for Tube Fed Children

Pediatric Feeding Problems from the Parents’ Perspective

Wanted to share this recent article that so well captures the importance of the family as the most important part of our therapy with their child. As the authors state: “A child and their family have a feeding problem; they experience this journey together. It is more inclusive to consider this issue in the context of the child’s natural environment with the people who are most familiar and invested. A shared conceptualization that families can relate to (without perceived stigma) and that providers could use to classify pediatric feeding problems would improve potential for early feeding assessment, referral, and for feeding intervention efficacy to last long term. “ Click on the link below to enjoy this wonderful article!

MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs 2016 Mar 23