I work in a level 2 NICU. We are a small unit with anywhere from 0 to 9 babies at a time. We don’t often have infants with respiratory compromise nor do we have many infants born prior to 30 weeks’ gestation. My question is in relation to this population: premature, occasional resp problems that often are managed and then resolve by discharge.
I had an infant recently with difficulty with getting a proper latch on the bottle when presented. Infant was a 38 weeker, SGA, initial hypoglycemia, fetal cephalhematoma (no fracture or IVH), and initial hyperbilirubinemia. He has no known drug exposure and MOB was allowed to breastfeed. Infant appeared to latch well and was satisfied to breast feed as he would be calm and latch immediately to mom’s breast. However, since mom’s milk supply was still low, and she was unable to feed every feeding, and infant weight gain was important due to SGA, the infant required bottle feeding. When presented with the nipple the infant was eager, almost frantic. Despite palatal placement with gentle pressure the infant continued to root for the nipple. Nursing reported, “I know that I’m not supposed to use chin support but I did. I felt like it helped him to find and maintain the latch on the bottle.” I also noticed that the mother had a similar approach to bottle feeding her infant, also including cheek support. My approach was to swaddle the infant in a cradled upright position. Doing that along with palatal placement with gentle pressure as well as providing pressure to the corners of the mouth to increase “feedback” helped on occasion but the feeding was still laborious as this still resulted in a lengthy feeding. My thought was that, I noticed that when the infant breastfed 1. MOB was so quick that the infant did not have time to work up into a frenzy, 2. infant was well wrapped and contained, 3. the infant mouth and face were receiving pressure against the breast. I was unable to successfully replicate this for bottle feeding. Additionally, nursing staff decided to try a faster flow. I watched the mother feed the infant in an upright cradle position, using cheek support as well. Initial look on the infant’s face was that the flow was fast, but was able to get into a rhythm with feeding. So, my question is, is cheek and chin support appropriate in this situation? What should I try in the future for similar situations of excessive rooting?
You’re doing a good job trying to sort out what is going on. The population in your Level II NICU sounds very typical, mostly GA 30+ weeks and typical respiratory issues associated with preterm birth, that can indeed affect coordination but are not enduring. May often see increased WOB with intermittent tachypnea due to the aerobic demands of feeding. So, breathing regulation is a component we would want to specifically support.
This little guy due to being SGA likely has some challenges with state regulation and can look/get “disorganized” due to more rapid movement to active alert state. One neo years ago told me the altered state regulation in SGA infants is likely related to the increase in catecholamines provoked when one is born SGA that creates this altered state regulation; this then can create poor latch at times, rapid state change to crying, contributing to an ineffective latch and ineffective feeding. Vestibular input (gentle slow rocking, one per second gentle patting to calm the regulatory system) would be important prior to and contingently during feeding, perhaps starting with a few pacifier dips to entrain the oral-sensory-motor system and promote organization without flow at first.
Of course, as you know, “poor latch” can be for so many reasons, sometimes more than one for an infant. Was managing flow rate at breast well but mom’s supply low. Not latching to nipple readily …my first thought is… was the flow from the man-made nipple too fast so he could not organize suck even to start? Or was it hard for him being SGA to transition to a rubber nipple especially if mom’s breasts are larger? Is odd that sensory input to palate (from, I hope, a drained man-made nipple), did not elicit his root-to-latch sequence. Mom likely learned cheek support from the RN – it of course creates flow without active suction/latch perhaps used to “get him infant going”?? But meanwhile he is not learning to establish the motor mapping for an effective root-to-latch sequence for sucking form the bottle—it’s being bypassed. The fast flow nipple selected by RN would be faster than the breast flow – and combined with cheek support and “pressure to the corners of the mouth”, the flow is likely too much, uncouples swallowing and breathing, and interferes with swallow-breathe coordination, in effect provoking less sucking drive and less intake, longer feedings. Agree with secure swaddle for containment and organization, humeral flexion with hands at midline near face. I’d try elevated side lying with capital flexion, eliciting rooting towards midline/towards chin (i.e., into forward flexion) as it can help with organization and support optimal latch by recruiting the proper motor mapping. The infant’s facial expression as if flow was too fast was real, and he might have then tried to accommodate but has limited capacity to do so, which can lead to subtle effects on coordination and likely learning, sometimes maladaptive behaviors. I suspect with the faster flow there were still subtle occasions of adaptive respiratory behavior such as slight nasal flaring/blanching, slight chin tugging, slight blinking in an attempt to compensate for the faster flow and its impact on the fine coordination of suck-swallow-breathe. No overt events but still a level of physiologic stress, if observed closely. Cheek support would not be helpful based on what I understand about this infant and his presentation. If you see excessive rooting in another infant, focus on “why” that infant with his unique history might be showing that maladaptive behavior and as you unpeel the layers, you will select an intervention clearly mapped to the etiology. Creating flow via a faster flow rate nipple as RNs selected, or passive increase in flow (via cheek support), may be more like band aids, than an etiology-based solution, which I find can be more effective and at the same time promote learning on the infant’s part, with neuroprotection.
I hope this is helpful.