A cleft palate is a birth defect that occurs when a baby's palate (the roof of the mouth) doesn't fuse together in the early stages of fetal development. This results in a split in the palate. About one in 2,000 babies are born with a cleft in the palate, explains the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Clefts are a concern because they can make it harder for you to feed your baby without special cleft palate bottles.
Feeding is difficult for a baby with cleft palate. The split in the roof of the mouth means that there's an opening between the nasal cavity and the mouth. Due to this opening, it's hard for a baby to create enough suction to feed. You may notice that your baby is taking a long time to feed or that he or she seems to be struggling during feedings. Your little one may be getting little or no milk and expending a lot of energy.
When you feed your baby, you may notice that milk is coming out of the nose. While this can be scary, the Cleft Palate Foundation reassures parents that nasal regurgitation isn't dangerous. To avoid this feeding complication, you can feed your baby in an upright position with a cleft palate bottle.
Cleft Palate Bottles
Since it's hard for a baby with cleft palate to create enough suction to breastfeed or drink from a regular bottle, there's a need for cleft palate bottles. These bottles don't require any suction, so they allow your baby to feed with less difficulty.
There are a few different styles of cleft palate bottles on the market. Some are squeezable. When you squeeze the bottle, the milk or formula flows out, and your baby can feed. Other bottles work by compression. When your baby bites the bottle's nipple, the milk or formula flows out. All types of bottles will take some getting used to, but with practice, you and your baby will be able to enjoy reasonably easy feedings.
Buying Cleft Palate Bottles
Since cleft palate is a common condition, specialized bottles are readily available. You can find them in your local pharmacy or in the baby aisle of your supermarket. They can also be purchased online. You may want to purchase multiple styles of bottle to see which type is easiest for you and your baby to use.
Oral Hygiene with Cleft Palate
Babies with cleft palate need to be fed differently than babies without clefts, but a baby with cleft palate needs the same oral care as a baby without one.
After feeding your baby with the cleft palate bottle, wipe his or her gums with a moist washcloth. Once the first teeth erupt – which usually happens around six months of age – you can start using a baby toothbrush like the Colgate My First toothbrush. The toothbrush head is specially sized for small children whose teeth are still developing. This oral hygiene routine is important because it gets your child used to having his or her mouth cleaned, and it helps to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
Feeding a baby with cleft palate can be difficult at first, but in time, you and your baby will get used to using a cleft palate bottle.