Humans of ASHA: Catherine Shaker

As an NICU speech-language pathologist for more than 30 years, my focus has been on improving feeding outcomes by promoting a culture of "neuro-protection" through infant-guided feeding. That means supporting and educating staff (from neonatologists to nurse practitioners to bedside nurses) about changing the culture of feeding in the NICU from "volume-driven" feeding, which is stressful for the infant, to "infant-guided" feeding (which "feels good"). Caregivers closely follow the infant's communicative lead via physiologic and behavioral signs of engagement versus disengagement. This relationship-based care improves intake and avoids infant stress. I help parents learn their infant's unique communication during feeding, and respond contingently to build reciprocity and support parent-infant attachment. Parents have called me "The Preemie Whisperer" which makes my heart sing. Because research tells us stressful feeding experiences can adversely alter brain development, this neuro-protective approach to feeding will hopefully build joy in eating that is lifelong.

Catherine Shaker

ASHA Corporate Partners