Babies with cleft lip and palate conditions can receive breast milk, either through expressed feeds or by breast-feeding using special techniques  positions, and supplementary feeding methods. Techniques vary, depending on the degree of the condition.

Babies with a cleft lip/cleft lip and alveolus May successfully breast-feed, but the mother may need to try different positions to find those that create an effective lip seal. Indeed, breast feeding is often easier than bottle-feeding in these infants:1,2 breast tissue is soft and malleable, and can be moulded around the area to improve the seal.

Babies with a cleft palateMay find it difficult to breast-feed successfully as they are unable to create effective negative intra-oral pressure. The mother should be encouraged to express milk, and give it using a specialist soft bottle (usually provided by the Cleft Lip and Palate Nurse Specialist, following a thorough feeding assessment).

Mothers are encouraged to put their babies to the breast for the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and stimulating milk production. Similarly, non-nutritive sucking provides emotional benefit to the baby and helps to stimulate milk while the mother is expressing. See: Non-nutritive sucking


  1. Slator R, et al. Understanding cleft lip and palate, 2: the first five years. J Fam Health Care 2009; 19: 122–125.
  2. Cole A et al. Understanding cleft lip and palate. 3: Feeding the baby. J Fam Health Care 2009; 19(5): 157–158.

ResourceCleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) Accessed 12 November 2009.

From: Journal of Family Health Care Bulletin. Directory of Breast-Feeding Advice. December 2009. Published with JFHC 2009; 19(6).