2. Getting off to a good start
As with all babies, there are many ways to make sure your baby gets off to the best start with breastfeeding. Currently, breastfeeding rates are quite low in most developed countries1. It’s no surprise, therefore, that parents of cleft babies face many difficulties in breastfeeding.
A natural, un-medicated birth and plenty of skin-to-skin contact in the early hours after birth enhance breastfeeding2 . Babies are capable of crawling toward the breast and latching on autonomously if allowed to do so. They are primed to find the breast, stimulate the nipple with their grasping hands, and will then launch themselves at the breast, as in this Unicef video http://www.breastcrawl.org/3.
Newborn babies should feed often (8-12 times or more per 24 hours)2. If the baby is not latching on, or nursing ineffectively, then breast milk can be expressed regularly to compensate for the lack of breast feeds. This will stimulate your milk supply, and the expressed colostrums (a highly concentrated and precious food) can be fed to the baby via other means (see also ‘Expressing milk’)
Further reading ‘Latching and positioning’
1.World Health Organisation, ‘Breastfeeding – early initiation’, e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (e-LENA) http://www.who.int/elena/titles/early_breastfeeding/en/index.html (accessed 19.07.2013)
2. Wiessenger,D., West, D., Pitman, T., La Leche League Int.,The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Ch. 3 ‘Birth!’, 8th ed., Ballantine Books, 2010
3. Mother and Child Health Education, ‘Initiation of Breastfeeding by Breast Crawl’ (video) http://www.breastcrawl.org/ (accessed on 17.07.2013)