Breastfeeding a cleft lip only baby is possible, and with a little bit of perseverance and support, entirely achievable. In addition to the benefits of receiving your breast milk, the action of sucking helps develop important palate muscles vital for good speech. If you breast feed your baby there is a smaller fast period prior to the first surgery and when the baby returns from surgery (with your surgeon’s permission) the baby is allowed straight back on the breast and can be discharged within 24 hours of their lip repair.
Breastfeeding a cleft palate baby is much more difficult because the baby is unable to achieve a vacuum from which to draw the milk from the breast. A good alternative to breastfeeding for cleft palate babies is to hire a breast pump and feed your baby expressed breast milk. For support with expressing you can contact:
- CleftPALS WA - we have committee members who exclusively fed expressed milk for a prolonged period and are very happy to share tips and tricks
- Lactation Consultant - can be contacted directly or through your Child Health Nurse (through your local council)
- PCH Cleft Team Feeding Nurse - contact the Cleft Lip and Palate Unit Coordinator and request an appointment
- Exclusive Expressing Facebook Group - great for tips, tricks and support
CleftPALS WA sells a range of subsidized bottles and teats that are approved for use with cleft babies by the Cleft Unit at PMH. It is important to remember that feeding is important not only for the essential nutrition that your baby requires but also for exercising and using those oral and facial muscles that will be required for eating and speaking later on.