A cleft lip is usually repaired at 3 to 4 months of age. Surgery routinely involves a 2-5 day stay in hospital and establishment of feeding before going home. You will then return approximately 1 week later for another day surgery to remove stitches unless dissolving type are used.
Guidelines for surgery vary depending on the surgeon and the baby’s individual features. The surgeon will have the last word on the feeding regime for your baby as the repair can vary as much as a cleft varies from one child to the next. You will need to discuss feeding with your surgeon and your hospital at your appointment before surgery is scheduled.
For cleft lip only babies who have been established with breastfeeding prior to surgery, in most cases, breastfeeding will be able to continue soon after. For a short time, this may not be possible. It is a good idea to be prepared with the feeding equipment for bottle feeding if breastfeeding is not immediately possible.
Your child will not be able to feed from a teat in the days after lip repair. Doing so could damage the newly joined tissue causing tearing, scarring and damage to the lip. CleftPALS Qld have liaised closely with QLD health professionals and recommend the following two post-operative feeding options:
Follow the guidance of the treating health team including dieticians, speech pathologist, nursing staff and your child’s surgeon should assist. If you have concerns or difficulty or just need to talk about surgery and feeding, please feel free to phone CleftPALS Qld.
Please note that Qld Health do not recommend food value products being added to milk bottles.