Have you ever noticed when you take a sip of water or coffee, you always follow a suck-swallow-breathe pattern? This rhythmical and coordinated pattern, which is also called the Suck-Swallow-Breathe (SSB) synchrony, is the first developmental pattern that we learn during infancy or even before birth.

The SSB synchrony allows infants to eat and breathe without choking, as well as to interact and explore the environment. This is why babies can start eating right after birth and often explore objects with their mouths.

The SSB synchrony is a primary component of our oral-motor mechanism. It is critical to many areas of our development, including speech and language development, postural control, motor development, self-regulation, attention, psychosocial development, feeding/eating behaviours, eye-hand coordination and more. For most of us, we often unknowingly use some of these strategies to support our needs and function in our everyday life. For example, some people may chew on straws or gum to help stay focused when they are reading or working. Some may have a drink of water or take a deep breath when feeling frustrated or upset. Others may hold their breath or clench their teeth when lifting or pushing heavy items.

It is important to observe the SSB pattern of our children. By strengthening or refining the SSB synchrony, we can facilitate their overall developmental process. Below is a list of activities that can be done at home and during play to support the development of the SSB synchrony:



  • Move small crackers from one place to another by sucking through a straw
  • Suck jello, pudding, milkshake, slushies etc. through a straw. Vary the length, diameter and texture of the straw to develop oral-motor strength (e.g. regular plastic straws vs coffee stirrers, silicone straws vs stainless steel straws)
  • Suck lollipops or suck applesauce, jam or ketchup from fingers



  • Blow bubbles
  • Blow cotton balls, pom poms, ping-pong balls across a tabletop or along the floor
  • Blow whistles or other types of blowing toys


Bite/ Crunch/ Chew/ Lick

  • Play ‘bite-and-tug’ with a washcloth, gummy snakes or some beef jerky
  • Eat crunchy foods, e.g. carrot sticks, toast, apples and crackers
  • Eat chewy foods, e.g. gummies, jerky, and dried fruit
  • Lick ice-cream, yogurt, applesauce or ketchup etc. spread around the lips