It’s important to know in advance that there are bottles and nipples specifically designed for your cleft palate baby. There are many resources available to you and I will outline them below so that you can continue to research and read at your leisure.
Contact the hospital you plan on having your baby at and ask to speak with the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). A nurse should be able to inform you whether or not they have cleft palate nursers on hand or assure you that they will have them prior to the birth of your child.
The soft squeeze bottle you may need is not available in your local Babies R Us, Target or other chain store. Our hospital provided us with our cleft palate nursers to begin with and I had ordered some online. After our son’s lip repair we transitioned from the Mead Johnson soft bottle nurser to the Dr. Brown’s Standard Specialty Feeding System that we purchased from Babies R Us. We were able to use these successfully and found them to be what worked for us. We still had to modify the nipple to have a larger crosscut and allow for a larger flow but we were satisfied with this bottle.
You may need to experiment with a few different bottles while feeding in order to figure out what works the best for you and your little one but there are so many options to choose from that rest assured you will find one. Some bottles that may work for you and your little one are as follows:
Medela Special Needs Feeder (formerly Haberman). This feeder is made especially for children affected with facial or oral differences and is sensitive to baby’s feeding efforts responding to even the weakest amount of pressure.
Respironics Pigeon baby bottle is designed specifically for cleft lip and palate. This is a squeezable bottle with one-way valve just like the Medela Special Needs Feeder. Good bottle to have and is comparable to the Mead Johnson soft squeeze bottle.
Dr. Brown’s positive-pressure flow for vacuum-free feeding that is similar to breastfeeding can help reduce feeding problems like colic, spit-up, burping and gas. We were able to use these bottles by cutting a larger crosscut in the nipple, which allowed for greater flow with less suck for our little one. We graduated to this bottle system after the Mead Johnson soft squeeze bottle we used in the hospital and for a few weeks at home.
We experimented with a lot of different sipper cups when it came time for our son to begin transitioning to that phase. Most didn’t work for us. He simply was not able to get enough flow and would become extremely frustrated. Training cups are not going to be what you envisioned with promises of no spills and drips. Whichever training cup you find works for your little one you are going to have to modify by either finding one with small holes in the spout and then removing the valve or by trying to use an X-ACTO knife to make the holes in the spout a bit larger.
Our previous experience with Dr. Brown’s bottles led us to the training cups with the soft silicone spout. Gavin was able to use this trainer cup with a lot less difficulty than others we tried. He would chew a bit on the spout but he was able to suck enough to get milk out. He especially liked the handles to grip and hold up to his face himself with ease.
There are a lot of products out there and what works for one child may not work for another due to their specific needs. Rest assured that you will be able to find something that works for your little one and that it may just take a little bit of modifying to do so.
As you are transitioning from bottle feeding to training cups and spoon feeding it’s important to note that you are going to want to use soft tipped spoons. You are not going to want to buy anything metal or that is metal and has the soft tip covering it. Whether you are getting ready for palate surgery or have recently had the surgery you are going to want to make sure that you only use “soft” items for feeding so as not to cause damage or pain. We used the following soft tipped spoons with our little one.