Feeding is one of the early needs to be given due attention and care. Being able to achieve feeding will create many positive impacts, providing a sense of normalcy for the parents (esp mothers).
Convert anxiety of cleft parents/individuals into hope and assurance
Provide moral support and advice on the management of cleft cases
Share key information to allow parents/cleft individuals to make knowledge based decisions
A cleft child may not be able to feed normally due to challenges related to inadequate suction caused by the absence of a good seal when a cleft baby tries to latch to a nipple or teat. Additionally, milk may aspirate out of the nostril as there is no separation between the oral and nasal cavity (for cleft palate).
Mother’s Milk as Priority
Mother’s milk should be given priority as it is proven beneficial for babies. Breastfeeding is also recommended (especially for babies with a cleft lip where breastfeeding has been successfully achieved). Babies with a cleft palate may face more challenges in which case, assisted feeding via bottles and teats can be used as an alternative. In any event, mothers are encouraged to attempt breastfeeding and use bottles, spoon et cetera only after breastfeeding cannot be achieved.
Care of Feeding Bottles and Teats
Your surgeon will advise the preferred method of feeding (spoon or teat) if breastfeeding is not successful. A pacifier should be avoided as it is relatively hard and can cause the cleft to widen. Check out the feeding aids suitable for cleft babies.