Infants with cleft lip and/or cleft palate usually benefit from modified feeding techniques to make feeding enjoyable and successful.
The goals when feeding any baby are to:
- Provide adequate nutrition for growth
- Choose a safe and supportive feeding method and supplies
- Establish and maintain a nurturing parent / infant bond relationship
Infants with cleft lip and/or palate need modifications to overcome the decreased or lack of oral suction that is caused by the air movement through the opening in the upper lip, nose or roof of the mouth (cleft).
Normally a full-term infant will lose weight right after birth but by the10th day of life the baby will return to or be above his / her birth weight. For any infant, poor weight gain can be a sign of a feeding issue. Despite having a cleft, these infants are able to meet the same feeding and growth goals with the right interventions. For this reason, your baby's weight will need to be watched closely.
The most common concerns for parents when feeding an infant with a cleft is lengthy feeding times and eating a small amount. Feeding time for all infants to get the necessary volume should be 20-30 minutes. Infants with clefts should not be fed for longer than 30 minutes, as the infant will tire and use up more calories than he/she takes in. A member of the healthcare team who is a cleft feeding expert will teach parents how to feed their baby.