Helping you to find out more…


Babies with a cleft lip

A baby born with a cleft lip should have very little, if any difficulty with feeding.

Your baby should be able to breastfeed normally and any initial difficulties can easily be resolved by repositioning the baby.

If there are any slight difficulties with a baby that is bottle fed it may be necessary to adjust the hole in the teat or change the teat completely. Your baby may find it easier to feed using a latex teat as these are softer than silicone and can mould to the shape of the baby's mouth more easily.

Our clinical nurse specialists are able to offer help and advice about different breastfeeding positions, teats, bottles and stockists.

Babies with a cleft palate

Babies born with a cleft lip and palate have a gap in the muscles and soft tissue of the roof of the mouth and a gap in the lip and gum. This makes it difficult for them to position and use the nipple or teat as other babies do when sucking and feeding.

Although your baby will be able to make sucking/ movements with his/her mouth and jaw, he/she will be unable to create and sustain the pressure required to draw the milk from the breast or bottle.


Having a cleft lip and palate makes it very difficult for your baby to latch on to the breast properly and stay latched on.

You can still put your baby to the breast but he or she must be topped up with expressed breast milk or formula after each feed using a cup or bottle. Alternatively you may choose just to express your breast milk and give it via bottle. Your clinical nurse specialist will be able to discuss this in depth with you.

We would recommend the use of an electric pump (for example, Ameda or Medela). The benefit of an electric pump is that it is usually quicker and more efficient. It is also possible to pump from both breasts at the same time. Our clinical nurse specialists have 4 electric Ameda pumps which are available for you to borrow for as long as you wish (these are kindly donated by CLAPA Bucks, CLAPA Wessex and The Fund for Children).

A few mothers prefer to use a small hand pump as this enables you to move about while you are expressing the milk but it is usually more time consuming than an electric pump. Your clinical nurse specialist will be able to support you in conjunction with your midwife and health visitor.

Bottle Feeding

Your clinical nurse specialist will assess your baby soon after birth and discuss with you which bottle and teat would be best to use.

The bottle we usually recommend is a MAM soft bottle - being soft it allows you to gently squeeze the milk into your baby's mouth. The bottle is used with a latex orthodontic shaped teat size 1 or 2 depending on the weight of your baby. We advise the use of a latex teat because it is softer than silicone, making it easier for your baby to suck. It also moulds to the shape of the mouth.

Your clinical nurse specialist will provide you with a starter pack of bottles and teats. Further bottles and teats are available from CLAPA.

Rarely, a baby with a particularly wide cleft and short jaw may need tube feeding until all feeds can be taken from a bottle. Your nurse specialist, hospital nurse and health visitor will support you through this.

Other Points

If your baby is sick after a feed you may notice it coming down his/her nose. This is perfectly normal for a baby with a cleft palate and is no cause for concern.

There is no need to change bottles and teats around the time of surgery.

Some babies may require an orthodontic plate to be fitted.

Expressing breast milk
Feeding your baby
Bottle feeding
MAM bottle
Orthodontic teat