Breastfeeding a child with cleft lip/palate

Contributed by : Asha Lalwani   
Breastfeeding a child with cleft lip/palate

A cleft occurs because the tissues of the baby’s face and mouth don’t fuse (link) properly.

Cleft is a split in the lip that can be immediately identified during the birth of a baby. A cleft lip is a split in the lip. Cleft lip and cleft palate can affect one or both sides of the mouth. Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur independently of each other or can occur together.

A cleft lip is caused due to many reasons - it can be hereditary, exposure to substances like cigarettes, alcohol or medications, diabetes or obesity during pregnancy. Babies having cleft lip can breastfeed comfortably, however babies with a cleft palate may have difficulty in sucking.


Consider this while feeding a baby with cleft lip (Without cleft palate):

  • The baby may find it difficult to seal nipple with the mouth. If there is a hissing sound, it indicates that air is entering in the mouth.
  • Try to reposition the breast and baby’s mouth to form a vacuum.
  • The nipple should be behind the tongue; this will help the baby to hold the nipple in its mouth.
  • You can adjust and change positions to identify the one that works the best for your baby

A cleft palate is a split or opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft palate can involve the hard palate (the bony front portion of the roof of the mouth), and/or the soft palate.

Consider this while breastfeeding a baby with cleft palate:

  • Hold your breast in such a way that baby can get a good grip and latch properly.
  • The cleft can be repaired with surgery after 6-12 months but before that do not stop breastfeeding your child.
  • Breast milk is very helpful as it does not cause irritation on delicate tissues of the nose and throat and can help to reduce ear problems. Try to avoid formula milk.
  • Take help from nurses or specialists to feed the baby with a cleft palate. There are alternate methods like bowl and spoon-feeding, use a breast pump to get the milk in a bowl and feed the child with a spoon.

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