Feeding a newborn with a cleft lip/palate may prove to be challenging and for some parents it can result unnecessarily in frustration- both for the parents and for the baby. More through trial-and-error than through clinical research an effective system for feeding babies with a cleft lip/palate has evolved. Although there may not be a single "correct" strategy of feeding an infant with a cleft there are several simple suggestions which can make feeding much more pleasant for your baby and the caregiver. Because of the cleft palate, your baby cannot suck milk out of a bottle or breast effectively. Babies tend to use a "chewing action" to extract the milk.
Some suggestions for bottle feeding include:
1) A soft nipple is recommended with an x-cut in the opening. Any nipple your child enjoys will work (Premie, Nuk).
2) A soft plastic bottle so the caregiver can squeeze the bottle while your baby attempts to suck. The Mead Johnson cleft palate nurser or Haberman feeder are also available through a hospital or clinic.
3) Hold your baby in an upright sitting position.
4) Your baby will feed more slowly and will need to be burped more frequently.
5) At first, it may take up to 45 minutes to feed your baby 3 oz. But the feeding time should decrease as you and your baby get used to the feeding technique.
Because infants with cleft palate have difficulty extracting milk from the bottle and breast, breast feeding can be difficult. Many of our mothers choose to express their breast milk and then feed their infant with the bottle. This takes an extra amount of time so additional support is recommended to help with feeding your infant.
There exists excellent educational materials including video tapes for parents desiring to learn how to effectively feed their newborn with a cleft palate. If you'd like to obtain a copy of these materials and/or a video tape produced by the UF team click on Ms. Ginny Dixon-Wood.