Cleft Journey,  Parenting

Expecting a Cleft Baby? You’re Not Alone!

I was in my 2nd trimester when we found out that we are expecting a baby boy. On top of that, it came as surprise when we learned that he is also a clefty. Having 3 kids without any congenital issues, it was overwhelming. Then, I’m just glad that we were able to detect it earlier so we have time to prepare.

Diagnosis

Photo courtesy of www.craniofacialteamtexas.com

My son was diagnosed with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. It’s on the left side of his face. During the ultrasound, we were just informed that he has a cleft lip, and probably his palate is also affected but there’s also a high chance that it isn’t. We were then endorsed for Congenital Anomaly Scan (CAS) to detect further congenital issues the baby might have aside from the cleft. I was 28 weeks when I underwent the CAS. Good thing, it came back as negative. He was only having a cleft. It wasn’t detected through CAS if his palate is affected but we were advised to prepare ourselves since most cases, it definitely affects the roofing of the mouth as well.

What You Feel is Normal

I’m in no way an expert in handling clefties but throughout our experiences with my son, I can say that it’s normal to feel sad, upset, and scared especially if it’s your first time to learn about your child’s condition.

When I learned about him having cleft, I was scared and sad at the same time. After going out of the ultrasound room, I cried myself out. Lol Literally, it took me a while to compose myself. Good thing my husband isn’t really that emotional. He just comforted me until we get home.

Learning about it, the husband was sad about it too but being optimistic sometimes is an advantage.

So, if you ever learned that your baby has a cleft, you are not alone in this journey. What you are feeling right now is all normal. Embrace it and acknowledge the pain you are feeling but know that it’s never your fault, never your baby’s.

What Causes It?

Based on my OB’s explanation and the pediatricians I’ve discussed this matter with, there’s no definite reason why a baby gets a cleft. Unless though if you have relatives, close or distant, that have it. Chances are, it’s because of the genes. Other than that, it could be due to (1) stress, (2) your body wasn’t able to bounce back after giving birth previously, (3) lack of vitamins particularly folic acid, (4) exposure to chemicals, and/or (5) the environment.

If you ever think that getting slid could be the reason why your baby is having cleft, that’s definitely wrong. There’s no evidence that connects to it. Going out while there’s an ongoing eclipse is the culprit, there’s no evidence to prove that myth.

What You Need to Know?

Cleft babies are really difficult to feed compared to normal babies. If you happen to give birth to a cleft baby without knowing it beforehand, it’s normal to be shocked and sad. But here’s what you need to do that may help.

Difficulty Feeding

We can’t breastfeed them unless their palate isn’t affected. But if the cleft both affects the lip and palate, that’s the real struggle. What you need to do is to learn which method works best for him or her. Either you do (1) through bottle both ordinary and specialized bottle will work, (2) syringe without the needle of course, (3) dropper, and/or (4) cup feeding.

Feeding while Sitting

Having a cleft baby is a game-changer. I used to breastfeed my kids before so this one’s a little difficult. I was able to give him my breastmilk though (thanks to breast pump), just a different way of feeding him. We use ordinary bottles for my baby and we used a modified nipple to make it easier for him to drink the milk. Below is how the way we positioned him every feeding time. This is to avoid getting drowned in the milk. As early as 3 days post-partum, we have been practicing this since.

Kids Health Information : Cleft lip and palate – infant feeding
Photo courtesy of rch.org.au
Formula or Breastmilk

Don’t stress yourself if ever you can’t produce breastmilk. Although if I’d be given the option, I sure would go for the breastmilk. Aside from convenience, it’s free and safer for babies. During the first 30 days of my son, I was able to feed him my breastmilk not until I was diagnosed with post-pre-eclampsia. I think my body was shocked with the medicines I’ve taken that it affected my breastmilk. I went from producing 4oz per breast every 3 hours down to 1oz until nothing more is produced. So, we had to switch to the formula since all the expressed milk I had in the early weeks post-partum ran out of stock. Going back, whatever you think should work both for you and your baby, you are free to do that and you are not a bad mom for doing so.

Colic is Common
Photo courtesy of Amazon

If normal babies get colic, clefties often experience it. That’s why it’s important to use a bottle that has an anti-colic feature to lessen its occurrence. It’s best to ask your doctor for a remedy since it’s pretty normal for babies with a cleft.

There are a lot of things you will discover along the way. Whatever it is, do what works best for you two. What’s important is that your baby is fed, loved, and cared for.

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