Cleft and Craniofacial Center
Hasbro Children's Hospital

Feeding Your Newborn Who Has Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate

Parents naturally are concerned about their newborn feeding successfully and thriving. For parents of babies who have a cleft lip and/or cleft palate, the concern is even greater.

If Your Baby has a Cleft Lip Only

He or she will be able to breastfeed or drink from a bottle. At the beginning, you may need the guidance of a lactation consultant to help your baby latch on to your breast. After the baby has surgery to close the lip, she or he will be able to breastfeed or drink from a bottle as soon as they are interested. If your baby has a cleft lip only and is having difficulty breastfeeding, please contact the cleft team as soon as possible.

If Your Baby Has a Cleft Palate

Babies with a cleft palate usually cannot breastfeed successfully and must be bottle-fed. You may either pump your breast milk and offer it in a bottle or give the baby formula. The goal is to make it easier for the baby to feed without the milk flowing too fast. Special bottles are available for feeding infants who have a cleft palate.

We encourage you to keep the baby’s head up at a 45-degree angle during feedings. The cleft or “hole” in the roof of the baby’s mouth may cause milk to come out of his or her nose when feeding or sneezing. This is normal. If the baby is having difficulty breathing because of milk passing into the nose, please call the craniofacial team.

Special bottles are available for feeding infants who have a cleft palate. This will be discussed with parents at the prenatal visit, in the hospital if you deliver at Women & Infants, or at your first office appointment with the cleft team.

Feeding Your Newborn

All parents want to ensure their infant is getting needed nourishment. There are special considerations for newborns with a cleft lip and/or palate.

Feeding Your Newborn with a Cleft (PDF)

If you have any concerns about your baby’s ability to feed or failing to thrive, please contact the team.