Breastfeeding Creates a Strong Foundation of Health for Babies with Cleft

A mother in Wenshan, China, breastfeeds her baby after surgery.
A mother in Wenshan, China, breastfeeds her baby after surgery.
8 month old Bismita, an undernourished girl from a mission in India
Bismita, an 8 month old baby in India who arrived at our mission site in need of nutrition assistance and surgery for her cleft condition.
A mother in Madagascar feeds her child formula with a spoon.
A mother in Madagascar feeds her baby with a spoon.
  1. Immediate skin-to-skin care for a minimum of one hour after birth is one of the most effective methods for promoting and initiating breastfeeding for all mothers, not just those with babies born with cleft. Many health facilities are opting for “Rooming-In” methods where babies and mothers are kept together during their hospital stay, strengthening the bond between the mother and baby.
  2. It is important to remember that adequate hand washing with soap is extremely important before breastfeeding a baby to reduce the risk of transmitting bacteria to a nursing child.
  3. Mothers should receive practical support to enable them to initiate and establish breastfeeding and manage common breastfeeding difficulties. Empowering and coaching mothers during their first interactions with their baby is essential.
  4. It is important that mothers receive guidance on how to express breast milk as a means of maintaining lactation, especially if the baby has difficulty latching on to the breast. Any amount of breast milk is beneficial.
  5. Fortunately, for many babies with a cleft lip or palate breastfeeding is often possible. Mothers may need to experiment with finding the ideal position that allows the child to form a strong vacuum.
  6. The child may have to be burped often because babies with cleft often swallow more air than other babies.
  7. It is often possible for the mother to gently plug the hole in the lip to improve suction.
  8. Mothers can learn to use breast pumps to express breast milk and spoon or cup feed the baby.
  9. If it becomes obvious that breastfeeding is not practical, there are also special feeding devices that have been created to help mothers provide breast milk to their child and ensure they can receive the wonderful benefits of breast milk.
  10. Mothers should be supported to practice responsive feeding as part of nurturing care, which involves responding to a baby’s feeding cues, both of hunger and satiation.
Pitchaya, a little boy from Thailand sucks on a bottle from his grandmother.
Pitchaya, a little boy from Thailand, sucks on a bottle from his grandmother.
Working with a mother and her baby who was unable to breastfeed, utilizing a special feeding device to help the child gain we
Here I’m working with a mother and baby unable to breastfeed, utilizing a special feeding device to help the child gain weight.

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Operation Smile

Operation Smile

Through our expertise in treating cleft lip and cleft palate, we create solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it’s needed most. operationsmile.org