Feeding a baby with a cleft condition, particularly where a cleft of the palate is involved, can be complicated as the child is often unable to suck properly or build pressure inside the mouth required for breast feeding and even normal bottle feeding. The experience could be compared to drinking from a straw that has a large hole in it.

The solution is a special teat designed to allow the milk to flow easily when pressure is placed on the teat and a bottle that can be gently squeezed, (applying pressure on the bottle) squirting the milk into the mouth as the baby sucks.

Teats for Cleft Palate
There are a variety of different teats available for children born with a cleft palate. The two used and recommended by health professionals and CleftPALS Qld are:

Chu Chu Easy Feed silicone teat: features a cross-cut and long nipple. The teat was developed for infants with feeding difficulties including, but not limited to cleft palate. The teat features two flat sides and two very soft sides. The flat part of the teat will act as a pseudo palate and when placed correctly in the mouth with the flat sides to the top and bottom, the baby’s tongue pressure causes the cross cut to open and the milk to flow easily.

Pigeon cleft palate teat: is a silicone or isoprene rubber teat and features a Y shaped opening. The teat can be used with or without the valve provided. The valve assists with milk flow.

CleftPALS Queensland Squeeze Bottle
CleftPALS Qld produces a soft polythene bottle that will suit a variety of teats and attachments available for both before and after surgery. The Queensland Squeeze bottle is used with a cleft teat to the centre of the mouth front on. The bottle produces a slow flow and gentle pressure (squeeze) on the bottle will increase the flow if required to assist your baby. An effective rhythm can be established with your baby, alternating between your baby’s suck by giving gentle pressure with your thumb when required. These bottles are BPA free and soft enough to squeeze so the baby is assisted in drinking where the baby is unable to establish enough pressure to suck.

Queensland Squeeze bottle sets come with a cap, disc and screw nut. The softest side of this bottle is opposite the imprinted measurements.

You may also need equipment for post-operative feeding in the weeks leading up to your child’s surgery. They include a pipette (or witches hat), the CleftPALS Qld Spout Attachment, and the Douglas Bean scoop.

For pricing of feeding equipment refer the CleftPALS Qld Inc Web page.

Caring for your feeding equipment
Please do not heat sterilise any of your CleftPALS feeding equipment. The equipment is designed for warm water cleaning only. An alternative to sterilisation is a good wash in warm soapy water with a bottle brush, followed by a rinse and then storage in an airtight container in the fridge. Remember your baby is not sick, and does not need the same level of sterilisation as babies who are sick in hospital.

CleftPALS recommends extra care with the cleft teats (Pigeon and Chu Chu types). For example, it is best to avoid inserting cleaning items such as teat brushes into the teat. A better way is to roll the teat between the fingers in warm soapy water, rinsing and then following through with your normal sterilising routine. Inserting cleaning items up into the teat may cause the cross cut to split or widen, affecting the flow of milk to your baby.

The safest way to heat the bottle is to stand it in warm water or to heat your baby’s milk in an alternative bottle and transfer it into to your sterilised squeeze bottle when ready to start the feed.