Breastfeeding? A MUST know tip for holding your baby to prevent and avoid glue ear
Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim
In this post, I am going to discuss a common issue caused during infancy by breastfeeding and a simple tip to help avoid it.
How to avoid causing your baby 'Glue Ear'
Very often, when I meet with children who have communication or speech problems, they are already 3+ years old. Not so often I meet with parents who are concerned about their babies below that age, because symptoms of difficulty with communication are usually not evident at that time.
However, one of the first questions I usually ask a parent of a child with speech or communication difficulty is whether he or she had lots of colds, stuffy noses, or ear infections during infancy and especially the breastfeeding / pre-weaning period.
One of the second things I usually ask the parents of any child I am working with, is whether he or she has any difficulty hearing? I often recommend they do a hearing test to check. Parent often say - yes - he hears when I call him! But a proper hearing test is important because it gives me two pieces of information:
1) whether his ear drum shows signs of being damaged or rigid. Normally, the ear drum is a bit like a proper drum, that vibrates when something hits it. But if it has become rigid because of ear infections, or even has a hole in it, the vibration is affected, (- check out the diagram below)
2) whether he can hear all the sounds of speech well in both ears. He may hear some sounds fine, but others, often the high-frequency sounds like 's' and 't' may not be heard well. That affects how he learns to speak, listen and communicate.
What do hearing problems have to do with the way I feed my baby?
Well, when the middle ear is blocked up with mucus, it makes it hard for sounds to get through to the delicate inner ear and thus to the auditory nerve that leads the sound to the brain and allows for clear hearing. One of the primary ways a baby's ear can become blocked is by a flow of sticky liquid into the ear canal - and this can happen quite easily when breast or bottle feeding.
This can cause infection that leads to a very descriptive term: ‘Glue Ear’ the common name for the medical condition known as Otitis Media.
Don't worry about the complex names of the diagram here - just see if you can spot a difference in the location of the ear canal in the diagram above.
Can you see that the shape of a baby’s mouth and throat are very different from an adult’s? The ear canal (Eustachian tube) is almost parallel to the mouth in a baby. You can imagine how easily, milk can go into the ear canal, especially when breast or bottle feeding.
When there are additional factors like Down Syndrome, or prematurity, a baby’s oral structure, and weakness in sucking and swallowing, can actually increase the possibility that your baby could have a hearing difficulty later, through getting infections of the ear.
A simple tip to help avoid causing 'Glue Ear' while breastfeeding
One simple way to help avoid this issue is to ensure that your baby is not held horizontally, but held diagonally or more vertical in your arms when feeding, so that the milk does not flow into the ear canal, but properly down the throat.
For the same reason, never leave your baby lying down, sucking a bottle by him or herself - this is one of the primary ways fluid can trickle into their ears, causing a plethora of communication issues later down the line.
I hope this information helped! Is this new information to you? Leave a comment and let me know.