The most important first step in the treatment of cleft infants is FEEDING, because adequate nourishment lays a strong foundation for further procedures and surgery. It is essential that parents know how to feed their baby. This will prevent malnourishment, dehydration and jaundice of the infant. The baby will have fewer chances of falling sick, and will be strong enough for operations, with fewer chances of complications after surgery (better recovery). Without proper feeding and nursing, the baby will not be fit enough for surgery. This information is especially important to new parents.
However, feeding an infant with a cleft lip or an open palate can be extremely difficult.
Our experience with thousands of children with cleft palate shows that only a handful of these children have had even a partial success feeding directly at the breast…Cleft Palate Foundation, USA
In our research of 35 mothers of cleft infants, we found 95% of them had major problems to feed their baby and the problems increased when they tried to handle these problems by themselvesCleft Palate Foundation, Netherlands
Due to the cleft in the lip or palate, the infant usually cannot be fed directly from the mother’s breast. The cleft prevents the creation of a vacuum needed for suckling to adequately stimulate the flow of milk. Feeding an infant with a cleft can be very tiring for the child and frustrating for the parents. Milk is spilt through the open cleft into the airway causing the child to cough.
Even though many mothers have faced these problems, most doctors do not have the resources to help. They rarely warn parents about the difficulties they will encounter, nor teach about alternative feeding methods. These methods may include using specially designed bottles, spoon-feeding or closing the cleft with special tape when the child is sucking.
Cleft Care Foundation Indonesia provides a cleft infant Feeding & Nursing program. This is usually conducted on the first home visit by the Foundation’s Community Healthcare Officers, providing families with practical solutions on breast feeding (if possible) and bottle feeding. Free special milk bottles and nipples are provided free for cleft children when necessary.
Providing assistance and supplies to underprivileged, undernourished cleft children.
Feeding infants. Helping families with practical solutions on how to breast feed, giving free bottles (specifically adapted to cleft children) when necessary.
The Nutrition guidance program for underweight and malnourished cleft children is another successful program adopted by Cleft Care Foundation Indonesia over the years. We provide free normal milk to families who can’t afford to buy milk and also free high calorie nutritional formula for underweight/malnourished cleft infants/children, nursing them to an ideal weight fit and safe enough to receive cleft repair surgery.
The health status and weight (growth status) are closely followed up with regular routine monitoring calls.
Monitoring calls – Helping cleft children’s parents to improve their children’s health condition before corrective surgery.