I have been gathering help from other cleft mamas for this post – so this is a collaboration of my knowledge and other caring mamas who shared their knowledge. When we first accepted our daughter’s referral, I had no idea how to feed her. I had about 5 months to do some research but it took a long time and I read through a lot of websites/blogs. So I thought it might be helpful to do a post for my cleft mama (or dad!) readers based on my research in combination with others.There is no correct way to feed your child – ultimately you’ll feed them the way that works best. And of course if your child is older, you could always use a regular cup. But below are a few options for bottles and sippys to help you on your way. They are in no particular order, except that the bottles are at the top of the list. I have linked to Amazon or other websites in the bolded caption under the image for each product, but please let me know if links no longer work so I can update them! I have also mentioned any alterations needed to make the bottle/cup work for cleft-affected children. The big thing to keep in mind is that cleft-affected children are unable to create suction until at least after their palate repair and possibly after speech therapy. Therefore, they cannot suck a bottle or sippy cup. Normal bottles and sippy cups will require some kind of alteration. But have no fear, there are many simple ways to make bottles and cups work!
Mead Johns Cleft Palate Nurser: Again, no alteration needed – designed for cleft palate use. They are super-cheap but in my experience, a little difficult to work with because you need to squeeze the bottle and there isn’t much airflow. However, other adoptive mamas have told me that they are absolutely fantastic and quite easy for their kids to figure out how to use on their own, without parental help.
Pigeon Feeder System: No alterations needed – designed for cleft lip & palate use. One of the bottles has a spoon on the end (several moms have told me they spoon-fed their babies formula), and the other more-popular one looks more like a regular bottle but works with a special nipple and one-way valve like the Haberman. I have also heard great review of this bottle.
Gerber First Essentials Nurser: Cut larger hole in nipple, squeeze bottle to feed. They are super-cheap and BPA-free – they worked well for us but it does get exhausting to be constantly squeezing the bottle for your child.
Prince Lionheart Medical Grade Silicone Bottle: No alterations needed – by applying pressure to nipple, child is able to express drink out of the bottle. Born Free nipples work well as replacements.
Comotomo Bottle: No alternations needed again – parent can squeeze the drink into the child’s mouth with the soft silicone bottle.
Playtex Drop-Ins Bottles: Child can chew on nipple to express drink. If more liquid is needed, mom can squeeze on the drop-in insert for more flow.
TenderCare Feeder: For after-surgery feeding, if needed.
Nuby No Spill Sippy Cup: Cut the inside of the sippy spout to allow for faster flow. The child simply bites on the sippy spout and the drink flows through. These are great because they work for cleft-affected children (no sucking) but they are terribly messy and do wear out quickly.
Nuby No Spill Sports Sipper: Cut the inside of the sippy spout to allow for faster flow. Again – the child bites on the spout and drink flows through. They are messy, but a bit less than the Nuby No-Spills. We used these regularly for awhile but needed to replace them every few months.
Avent Magic Trainer: With the stopper removed.
Avent Natural Drinking Cup: No alterations needed – these are made to foster drinking out of regular cups. I just love this idea and so does Sunshine – this cup is a hit and we’ve since used it for our non-cleft-affected son! When the child’s top lip touches the center part of the cup, it pushes down and the drink is allowed to flow through the top. Don’t let the negative comments on Amazon fool you, this is a wonderful option!
NUK Gerber Graduates Spout Learning Cup: Take the stopper out, the drink flows through the spout. These are great for palate repair because there is no long spout to potentially poke a hole through a newly-repaired palate. Many surgeons require that children are drinking out of a regular cup or using a spoutless sippy for palate surgery, so these are perfect cups for that. (Update: It doesn’t appear that Amazon is offering the same product as originally posted, but they have a few similar options.)
Playtex Coolster Tumbler: With valve removed, child only needs to tilt head back to get the drink out. This is another great option for recovery of palate repair because there is no spout.
Tommee Tippee Explora Lil Sippee Training Cup: Child can bite on spout and because of a fast flow, is able to get drink out of the cup fairly easily.
First Years Take & Toss Cups: Cut holes in the spout to make one long hole instead of 3 small ones. Super-cheap and they work.
Tilty Cup: Doesn’t seem to be any alterations needed – the flow of the liquid is tilted, allowing for a more natural flow. Child can simply tilt head back but I am unsure about how much pressure is needed on the spout for it to work. I don’t believe you can find these on Amazon, but they are still available elsewhere online.
Nosey Cup: A flexible drinking cup – great for during/after surgeries and recoveries.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. The big thing to remember is that many, many bottles and cups are alterable to work for cleft children – any alteration to stop the requirement of sucking will work! If you are adopting and leaving soon to bring your child home, my advice is to pick several options to take with you so your child can use what works best. If you are reading this post and have successfully used other products for your cleft child, please comment or email me with a link to the product. I would love to include it! This is a great way to help other cleft parents, please don’t be shy! Thank you!