This is a particularly difficult subject for me to talk about as it was probably one of the biggest things I was looking forward to experiencing.
When Baby B was born with a cleft palate the advice received from our cleft nurse was a resounding ‘no’ to breastfeeding. We were advised that it just wouldn’t work as she would be unable to form any sort of seal and create suction required for breastfeeding. This led to me expressing my milk for the first 4 months of her life before supply just wasn’t keeping up.
It was crushing for me to know that I wouldn’t be able to have the full breastfeeding bonding and experience that I had envisioned throughout pregnancy. I’m not entirely sure why it was so important to me, it just was. Even now I have days of mum guilt where I wish this was something we could still be doing.
I do want to give hope to others out there with cleft babies though. The advice we received was actually wrong. We should have been referred to a breastfeeding specialist while we were still in the hospital to see if we could make it work for us but this wasn’t offered as Baby B had the title of ‘cleft baby’.
When she was 8 weeks old I decided to go and see an NCT peer supporter at our local breastfeeding support group and see if there was anything we could do. Baby B still seemed to exhibit interest in the boob and would suckle for comfort & when sleeping so I was curious to see if there was any way to make it work. I was met with the news that with a little help from me to create a deep latch, Baby B could very well breastfeed.
It would tire her quicker than the bottles we were using (they literally dripped into her mouth) but it was possible.
Except, Baby B had other ideas. Because she had been using these bottles since birth she had developed a huge preference for how easy they were and wouldn’t feed from me for longer than a couple of minutes at a time. I was disappointed all over again. If we had received the correct referrals from the beginning then I really do think we could have made it work.
If we have any further children and experience issues I will absolutely be seeking a second and then a third opinion to try and ensure we have the experience I want – although my husband says I’ll definitely have to pull the rabbit out of the hat to persuade him to have another!