Is it difficult for children to eat and drink with a cleft palate?

Yes, it can become difficult for children to feed properly with a cleft palate, but with specialized bottles and feeding techniques, this problem can be managed.

A cleft palate is usually repaired at the age of around one year, and therefore, feeding difficulties caused by the cleft should not last longer than this.

Infants born with a cleft palate will have an opening in the roof of their mouth, which separates the nasal cavity and the oral cavity. This causes the difficulty in creating suction that is required to pull out milk from the feeding bottle or to latch on to the breast. This leads to poor weight gain in these infants as they end up using enormous energy to feed.

Here are some guidelines that need to be followed while feeding infants with cleft palate:

  • Use specialized cleft palate bottle
  • Hold your baby in an upright, sitting position while feeding to prevent the milk from flowing back into the nasal cavity.
  • Hold the bottle tilted so that the nipple is always filled with milk and pointed down away from the cleft.
  • If you see some milk escaping through the nose, it is quite normal and it does not mean your baby is choking. Just hold your baby in a more upright position as this will reduce the amount of milk coming through the nose.
  • A baby with a cleft needs to be burped more often as more air gets in while feeding. Always watch for signs of discomfort while feeding as you will need to stop and burp your baby at that time.
Disclaimer: We do not assume responsibility for the use of the provided information or its interpretation. Our efforts are towards providing current and reliable information; however these should not be considered, or used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment.

Source: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Education/Medical-Library/

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