Eating problems of children with a cleft lip/palateKeywords:
We advise and assist families with issues in feeding infants with a cleft lip or palate, first at the maternity hospital and later at the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Center.
Eating problems are quite common in the first weeks after birth. Learning how to feed the infant often demands patience and perseverance from the person feeding, but once a workable solution has been found, the feeding reinforces positive interaction and bonding between the parents and the child.
A cleft palate makes it impossible to create suction in the mouth cavity, and because of this ordinary breast feeding usually will not work. A cleft lip usually does not cause any feeding problems, except if the cleft is unusually broad, preventing the infant from getting a firm grip on the breast.
Even if a cleft palate prevents the infant from sucking or being breastfed, mother’s milk can still be used: you can extract the milk and feed it using a bottle.
A cleft lip/palate does not affect swallowing. You can feed the milk using a bottle with a teat if you enlarge the hole with a cross cut, for instance. You can help the infant to suckle by pressing on the base of the teat or on the bottle if it is a soft one, according to the infant’s feeding rhythm. You may need to try out various types of teat and bottle to find suitable ones among the many alternatives available. A teat for thick liquids has proved good in many cases. What is important is the size of the hole in the teat.
The teat must yield large drops at a steady rate, but not a continuous flow. This will prevent the infant from getting too much milk in their mouth at any one time. Most infants will learn to feed like this, but there are more specialized teats available if necessary. Anatomically shaped teats are the most commonly used nowadays. When feeding, the infant should be held in a semi-reclining position in the parent’s arms. It is important to burp the infant during and after the feeding.
At the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Center HUSUKE at Park Hospital, we treat cleft lip and palate patients, defective fusions of the cranial sutures…