Nutrition for children with cleft lip or palate

By People Reporter
Monday, November 16th, 2020 00:00 | 2 mins read
A chid with cleft lip. Photo/Courtesy

Christine Nderitu @DEITIFY1

Cleft lip and palate (CLP) is a congenital anomaly that affects the lip or palate or both, due to alteration in normal embryonic face fusion.

The result is a hole, gap, or slit in the baby’s lip or a hole in the roof of the mouth.

According to research, some probable causes include genetic predisposition, micronutrients deficiencies such as folic acid, maternal illness, exposure to drugs, smoking, alcohol during pregnancy, obesity during pregnancy, and exposure to teratogenic agents such as chemotherapy, radiation, lead, and chemicals like pesticide, seizure medications and steroid, among others.

Children with CLP are usually at high risk of malnutrition because they experience a lot of feeding challenges.

Unlike normal infants, CLP babies have impaired suction and swallowing mechanisms.

As such, they have difficulty breastfeeding as they cannot latch and suckle properly. Sometimes, milk can come out of nose of the breastfeeding child, or go into their lungs.

Further, CLP babies may take in a lot of air, and are likely to get frustrated when they struggle too much to feed.

The result is they hardly get to the hind milk, which is the most nourishing. For older children, feeding is no less difficult due to the challenge to chew.

Now CLP can be managed through surgery. However, the surgery, which can be conducted anytime from three months, requires that the babies have a good nutrition status. This means the right weight and height for age. 

So how do you feed a baby with CLP?  As they are not able to eat much or fast, ensure you give slow feeds every two hours, allowing enough time to swallow.

For breastfeeding children, the baby should be positioned in a way it’s easier for them to feed, and where it’s extremely difficult, the mother can express and feed the child using appropriate apparatus.

It is important to prep for a feed by massaging breasts for easy milk flow, burp the infants more often and finish their meal with a drink of water.