The information and opinions on this blog come from parents, and the blog is not associated with Primary Children´s Medical Center or any other institution.


This site is specifically for parents of kids with clefts being treated at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, but I hope that there will be information that is helpful to all parents of kids with clefts. If you are just starting to learn about clefts, I would suggest starting with the "General Information" topic and going from there. To find information on a specific doctor or topic, click on one of the links on the right. You can also search the blog using the box below the topic list. If you have information or experiences to share, please leave comments or contact me to do a guest post at Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Will I be able to breastfeed after surgery?

The answer to this isn't particularly clear. Some babies with clefts are able to breastfeed from the beginning, particularly if the cleft only affects the lip. And a few babies are able to gain suction after a full or partial repair, but often the combination of little to no suction due to the cleft and having chewed a bottle to get milk rather than suck makes it difficult for babies to transition to breastfeeding. Here are a few comments from parents that were posted to the group:

"I also had high hopes for breastfeeding after the first surgery. However, [my baby] was just so used to basically a chewing like motion with his feedings that he was unable to suck at all. Dr. Warnock explained that some babies are able to breastfeed if your letdown is powerful, but you would likely still need to pump in order to get the hind-milk since suction is needed for that. I felt that it was just too frustrating for him and me that it interfered with the process. Every situation is different so I encourage you to give it a try."

"I think that if you want to give it a try, then you totally should!  I would contact a Le Leche League person, to help you have the best chance possible.  However, I do know that after my son had the hard and soft palate fixed (about 1yr old) he was still not able to even use a normal sippy cup.  It is not just the fact that the holes are all gone... it's also an issue of these kids not using the muscles in the soft palate... so it takes a while for them to learn to use them and to have the normal sucking strength.  So, it may take you longer, but if it is something you really want to do, then  you should go for it!"

"I think that if your baby's cleft is small enough and the prosthesis seals off the cleft, you might be able breastfeed. Medela makes a Supplemental Nursing System that you could try. It enables babies to feed at the breast before they know how to suck by giving them either expressed milk or formula through a device that is hooked up to you. It might be a good way to try to see if your baby can suck without starving him or losing your milk supply. I read an article once about a woman whose baby's palate was completely repaired at 6 or 7 months and she used this until her baby mastered sucking."

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