These exercises may be used before latching to encourage baby to bring his tongue down and forward and to improve tongue function for babies who are having difficulty latching or transferring milk . They also may be helpful for babies who are tongue-tied or who have had a tongue-tie release. Only use these exercises if baby finds them enjoyable. Any exercise that upsets baby will not help him to latch. For best results, work with a lactation consultant to determine which exercises are best for your baby.
Exercise 1: Use a finger (with a trimmed and filed nail) that most closely matches the size of your nipple. Place the back-side of this finger against baby’s chin with the tip of your finger touching the underside of his nose. This should stimulate baby to gape widely. Allow him to draw in finger, pad side up, and suck. His tongue should cover his lower gums and your finger should be drawn in to the juncture of the hard and soft palate. If his tongue isn’t forward over his lower gums, or if the back of his tongue bunches up, gently press down on his tongue with forward (towards the lips) traction.
Exercise 2: Start as above but turn finger over and press down on the back of tongue and draw slowly out, with downward and forward (toward his lips) pressure on tongue.
Exercise 3: Gently stroke baby’s lips until he opens his mouth and you can stroke his lower gums side to side. His tongue should follow your finger. Then, gently massage the tip of his tongue in circular motions pressing down and out, encouraging his tongue to move over his lower gums. Massage can continue back further on the tongue with light pressure as finger moves back on tongue and firmer pressure when finger moves forward.
Use these exercises before feeding or as a playtime activity. Be sure to stop any exercise that baby dislikes.
Massage and Stretching Exercises
Discontinue any exercise that baby dislikes. Always get permission from baby to put fingers into his/her mouth. Never force baby to accept finger. These exercises are designed to improve jaw and tongue function.
-Begin with gentle, fingertip, circular massage, under baby’s jaw, from back to front on both sides.
-Using fingertips, massage baby’s cheeks from center toward the temple on both sides
-Massage in tiny circles around the mouth, near the lips, clockwise and counter clockwise. Massage around baby’s mouth, near the lips, from center outward, on both sides of the mouth, top and bottom.
-Massage baby’s chin.
-Place your smallest fingers between baby’s gums on both sides of the jaw and allow baby to work gums against fingers.
-Place pinky finger, pad side down under tongue and move along the floor of the mouth until your finger reaches a restriction in the center of baby’s mouth. Hold finger there for 30 seconds while baby attempts to push on finger with baby’s tongue. Repeat on other side of mouth.