Parents of a baby born with a cleft lip and palate have many initial concerns, including wondering how their infant will ever be able to feed. Due to the cleft (opening) in the palate, the infant cannot generate enough suction to get the milk from the breast or bottle. Luckily, with just a few simple modifications, your baby should be able to receive adequate nutrition and gain weight.

If you would like more information about caring for your child with a cleft lip or cleft palate, request a consultation online or call us at (469) 375-3838 to schedule a time to meet with our skilled team.

Isolated Cleft Lip

Infants with a cleft lip only and an intact palate usually breastfeed or bottle feed without difficulty once an adequate “seal” is made around the nipple. However it is still important to monitor the infant for adequate weight gain.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Infants with a cleft lip and cleft palate or isolated cleft palate are usually not successful at breastfeeding directly from the breast. Using a breast pump and feeding breast milk with a special bottle is encouraged.

The “best” bottle for your infant is whatever you are most comfortable with and allows adequate nutrition and weight gain. The key point is a system that allows an easy flow of milk. Here are some suggestions that we have found beneficial over the years.

You may have noticed that even though your baby seems to be sucking vigorously, the amount of milk in the bottle stays the same. If your baby is tiring easily and taking longer than 45 minutes to feed, then you should try the Mead-Johnson plastic squeeze bottle. It will probably take you and your infant a few tries to get the hang of using this, so don’t worry. It is important to relax and get to know your baby’s feeding habits.

Here are a few tips that have helped other parents using the Mead-Johnson plastic squeeze bottle:

  • Before putting the nipple in the infant’s mouth, gently squeeze the bottle so you can tell how much pressure is needed to get an even flow.
  • You may use different nipples with this bottle; premie nipples or Nuk orthodontic nipples also work well.
  • Don’t wait until your baby is tired to begin squeezing the bottle; you should be applying pressure from the beginning of the feeding to prevent fatigue!
  • Do not squeeze formula into the mouth when the infant is resting. This could cause the baby to choke. It also disturbs the natural suck/swallow pattern.
  • If the baby falls asleep, you may want to unwrap the blanket, tickle the feet, or try another method that has worked in the past to awaken the baby.
  • Relax! Holding the baby in an upright position will prevent milk from coming through the nose during feeding. If this does happen, use the bulb syringe to gently clean the area.

When you leave the hospital, your baby should be taking about 2 ounces of formula or breast milk in 30 minutes. It is a good idea to check your baby’s weight at least once a week after going home. Most babies are back to their birth weight when they are 10 days old.

Your baby may take in more air and need more frequent burping, usually about every 1/2 to 1 ounce. However, be careful not to stop too often because this may tire the baby.