The development of feeding and swallowing involves a highly complex set of interactions that begin in embryologic and fetal periods and continue through infancy and early childhood. This article will focus on swallowing and feeding development in infants who are developing normally with a review of some aspects of prenatal development that provide a basis for in utero sucking and swallowing. Non-nutritive sucking in healthy preterm infants, nipple feeding in preterm and term infants, and selected processes of continued development of oral skills for feeding throughout the first year of life will be discussed. Advances in research have provided new information in our understanding of the neurophysiology related to swallowing, premature infants' sucking and swallowing patterns, and changes in patterns from preterm to near term to term infants. Oral skill development as texture changes are made throughout the second half of the first year of life is an under studied phenomenon. Knowledge of normal developmental progression is essential for professionals to appreciate differences from normal in infants and children with feeding and swallowing disorders. Additional research of infants and children who demonstrate overall typical development in oral skills for feeding is encouraged and will provide helpful reference points in increasing understanding of children who exhibit differences from typical development. It is hoped that new technology will provide noninvasive means of delineating all phases of sucking and swallowing from prenatal through infancy. Further related topics in other articles of this issue provide a comprehensive review of factors influencing oral intake, growth, nutrition, and neurodevelopmental status of children.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.