July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month (NCCAPM)
If your baby is born with a cleft lip or palate one of the first things you are likely to be told is that breastfeeding is not going to be possible. Depending on the position and severity of the cleft you may discover that you can breastfeed although it will likely have to be done differently than you may have previously experienced or imagined breastfeeding.
Parents who have breastfed a baby with a cleft lip or palate have realized that breastfeeding isn’t about suction as much as it is about compression. If you can find a position in which your baby is supported so she doesn’t slide away from the breast she may be able to provide enough compression on her own. Other babies may need some assistance provided by hand compression to help the milk flow or a nursing supplementer.
In the very first days while you are figuring out what will be possible for you and your baby pumping frequently will help encourage your body to produce a full milk supply. Some babies with cleft lips or palates will never get hang of breastfeeding but they can be exclusively breastmilk fed.
Breastmilk is especially important for babies during the period while they are waiting to have repair surgery. The antibodies in breastmilk decrease the chances of baby getting an ear infection which is a common occurance for babies with craniofacial defects. Babies with cleft lips and palates often have milk leakage through thier nasal passages while feeding. Breastmilk is less irritating to the inside of the nose than artifical formulas. The healthier baby is going into the repair surgery the faster he will heal.
Here is some information to inspire and encourage you:
http://www.lllc.ca/get-help: a mum’s tips for breastfeeding her baby with a cleft of the soft palate
Remember to call a La Leche League Leader if you need support or suggestions for breastfeeding or exclusive pumping for your baby with a cleft lip or palate or for any other breastfeeding challenges you may be experiencing.