Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies Center

Feeding a Child with a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate

Feeding Baby

Knowing how to feed your child with a cleft lip or palate is very important. If your newborn child has a cleft lip only (with a normal palate), he/she should be able to eat normally using standard techniques. They can even breast feed, if you desire. However, if your newborn has a cleft of the palate, special techniques are required.

  • Make sure your child is eating in an upright position. Gravity will help prevent milk from coming through the baby's nose. This limits choking and gas. It also helps to decrease the risk of ear infections.
  • If you want to breast feed, you will need to pump your breast milk, then feed it to your baby through a bottle. Direct breast feeding is not an option because a child with a cleft palate cannot generate any suction.
  • Use a cleft palate bottle or other squeezable bottle. You may make the hole in the nipple bigger by cutting an X in the top. With a squeezable bottle, you can actually push the milk into your child's mouth and he/she doesn't need to suck.
  • BURP YOUR BABY FREQUENTLY. Infants with cleft palate tend to swallow a lot of air during feedings—even when eating in the upright position.
  • Eventually, feeding time should be no more than 30 minutes for 2-3 ounces. If it's taking longer than that, call us or send us an email. [link to email address] We can discuss your techniques and offer helpful suggestions.
  • Please schedule weekly visits with Melisande McCheyne, our nurse practitioner, or with your pediatrician until your child is eating well and gaining appropriate weight.

Bottle Manufacturers

Bottles for infants with cleft palate

The following companies manufacture bottles especially for infants with cleft palate:

  • Mead Johnson's Cleft Palate Nurser—1-800-222-9123
  • Medela's Haberman Feeder—1-800-435-8316
  • Pigeon Bottle (from Children's Medical Ventures)–1-800-345-6443
  • We also have bottles for you at our clinic. Call (585) 273-FACE.

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