Feeding a baby who has cleft palate can be a challenge. Your baby may have a problem making a tight seal between his or her mouth and the nipple. But with a little preparation, you can successfully feed your baby with breast milk or formula.
A health professional who specializes in babies with cleft palate can show you how to bottle-feed your baby in the best way. The health professional can also answer any questions you have about feeding problems.
Be patient, and don't rush yourself or your baby.
Use a soft, compressible nipple. Many different types of nipples are available. Try several until you find one that works best for your baby. Nipples that empty by gravity, such as the crosscut nipple, may work best. The hospital where your baby is born will often supply a special bottle or nipple for feeding a baby who has cleft palate.
Use a bottle you can squeeze. Squeeze it gently during feeding to help the flow of milk.
Prop your baby in an upright position to prevent the formula from leaking into his or her nose.
If needed, use splints or other material to restrict your baby's arm movements so that your baby can't touch and damage the stitches.
During and after feeding, be sure to burp your baby often. Babies with cleft palate tend to swallow more air while feeding and may need more frequent burping than other babies.
If you want to breastfeed your baby, talk with a health professional or a breastfeeding (lactation) consultant. Although feeding your baby directly at the breast usually is very challenging and not always successful, you can use a breast pump to collect your breast milk in a bottle and then feed it to your baby. Try using the above bottle-feeding suggestions.
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam David Schaffner MD, FACS - Plastic Surgery, Otolaryngology