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Cleft bottles & cups 101

Cleft bottles & cups 101
I thought I would share some cleft options I know of and what worked best for my daughter which was born with bilateral cleft lip/palate.   If a child has a single cleft and no issues with a palate then you may find a different bottle 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.  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 cannot create suction, and can therefore not suck a bottle or sippy cup.  They will not be able to drink out of a normal bottle or sippy that requires sucking without some kind of alteration.  But have no fear, there are many simple ways to make bottles and cups work!
The Haberman Feeder
The Haberman Feeder: No alteration needed – designed for cleft/special needs feeding.  I have heard nothing but great things about them but they are expensive and have a short lifespan, so they need to be replaced when worn out.  No sucking required – they have a special nipple and one-way valve – the nipple only needs pressure to work. This is what worked best for us.  We purchased them thru a local medical supply store and my insurance covered the cost. Below is a pic of my mom feeding Aliah.


It took us a few weeks to really get the hang of it.   You can see by the pic we had to keep her at a 45 degree angle to feed her, letting gravity work so she wouldn’t get choked.  We fed her every 3 hours for months to give her what she needed.  It was alot of work to eat so she was burning more calories than she needed too in order to gain weight.
Mead Johnson Cleft Palate Nurser

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.   This is the type of bottle we were given in the hospital the first few days.  I personally had a terrible time using them.  They were hard to squeeze and didn’t work as well for bilateral cleft.  Although, I have heard other mamas like them with a single cleft and no cleft palate.

Pigeon Feeder System

Pigeon Feeder System: No alterations needed – designed for cleft lip & palate use.  One of the bottles has a spoon on the end, 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 used bottle with a spoon similar to this to feed her formula after surgeries.

Comotomo Bottle

Comotomo Bottle: No alternations needed again – parent can squeeze the drink into the child’s mouth with the soft silicone bottle.

Nosey Cup: A flexible drinking cup – great for during/after surgeries and recoveries.  We used this and even paper cups after Aliah’s surgery.   This worked best for us.  She couldn’t bite down on a nipple.

TenderCare Feeder

TenderCare Feeder: For after-surgery feeding, if needed.

Nuby No Spill Sippy Cup

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.  We had Aliah on a cup at 6 months old per the doctors request.  After purchasing many different cups this is what we always went back too.

Nuby No Spill Sports Sipper

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
Avent Magic Trainer: With the stopper removed.  We used several cups with the stopper removed.  It is an option.

Avent Natural Drinking Cup

Avent Natural Drinking Cup: No alterations needed – these are made to foster drinking out of regular cups.   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.   We used something similar to this when Aliah was over 12 months old.  It worked well for after surgeries too.

Playtex Coolster Tumbler

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.
This is most definitely 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 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!
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