Taking Care of an Infant with a Cleft Palate—a Mother’s Note
Created by Parentune Support Updated on Jul 16, 2021
A callous, carefree and impatient girl turns into a responsible, caring woman, filled with unending love and stoicism as soon as she realizes there is a baby in her womb. Like any other mom I felt the same. Oozing with love and bearing several dreams in my eyes of upbringing my little angel, my world was complete when the pregnancy test came positive. I shared the news with my better half in a special way. I dreamt of everything until the God's gift -- my child -- was in my arms. Well, when actually I started rearing the child, I realized motherhood was full of challenges and is the toughest job. I declared openly that being a journalist, was much easier than being a mother, but I must add, that it is also the most satisfying one. However, I was a bit shattered when I came to know that my baby has a cleft palate and can’t breastfeed.
Don’t Panic—it is normal and curable
Here, I will like to share with all mothers that one doesn’t need to panic if your child has “cleft palate” or “cleft lip”. It’s just an incomplete lip or palate which can easily be corrected with a surgery, once the infant is a year old. Your child is normal if he or she has a cleft palate and you need to give him a normal upbringing, with just some extra care.
Few signs of a cleft palate, in an infant are that he is unable to take breast feed owing to the missing palate and when one feeds the infant with a bottle or spoon, the milk might ooze out of his or her nose. For months, I expressed my milk in a feeding bottle. Doing each and everything was a pleasure always though my body would get tired. I used to express milk every two hours diligently as every mother wants the best for his or her child. The feed used to be insufficient for him so I used to feed him formula milk.
Focus on appetite
The cleft palate surgery can be carried out on an infant, once he weighs close to nine to ten kilograms and has a haemoglobin of 10. So, I was very cautious of my child’s diet. I had started feeding him bananas once he was six months old. Besides banana shake, I gradually included rice, khichdi, fruit puree like strawberry, papaya etc. I never treated him like a special child with some major ailment. Regular outings, going to the park were a part of his schedule. I was never worried that he would catch infection. In case, he suffered a minor cough or cold I used to administer steam twice a day, which helped cure congestion too. As months passed, from changing diaper to feeding, he turned one and was all set for an operation that would complete his palate.
As soon as he turned one, I celebrated his birthday with great excitement. I had planned everything much in advance. He had a great time on his birthday as he danced a lot on his knees. He was yet to begin walking properly but he enjoyed his birthday and so did everyone else. Ten days after his birthday, he was operated in PGIMER in Chandigarh and it was a successful surgery. The surgery is done free of cost under the Smile Train Project run by an international NGO and is available at every reputed government hospital. It was a three hour long procedure. Those three hours were the toughest hours of my life. I was impatient. I was peeping in the operation room time and again. I had never been away from him for so long. It is a major surgery and the child is put on ventilator and mouth is kept open for a while to close the palate through plastic surgery.
My son was kept on a liquid diet for 15 days to one month after the surgery, which was again very challenging for both of us. My little baby didn’t get off my lap for two days after the surgery, so I had to be very calm and patient. After each feed, he had to be given water to clean the mouth so that the freshly operated palate doesn’t get infected. He protested from taking water but it had to be administered forcibly. I was extra cautious about hygiene to eliminate any chances of infection.
Meanwhile, the real rewards of motherhood kept pouring in whenever he called me “Maa”, snuggled inside me for warmth. I love being a mommy as it is the most satisfying job.
Here are some pointers to take note of:
1) Be very patient with the infant as he or she might get very cranky at times.
2) Keep a close eye on the child’s diet so that the haemoglobin and weight remains normal to prep him for the forthcoming surgery.
3) After the surgery, get speech therapy for the child, which includes practices like blowing the candle or whistling so that his speech becomes clear.
1) Don’t treat the child as if he has some major problem; give him or her a normal healthy environment for which first you have believe that it’s not a big problem.
I was a journalist and has worked with leading English dailies like The Indian Express, The Tribune and a B2B magazine The Franchising World. I had quit my career for my child and enjoy writing. My son Aarvish Mahajan will be turning two in August 2015. After the surgery he is back to normal and has become very talkative and can repeat almost every word he is introduced to.