Bottles for Cleft Affected Children
There are four “cleft specific” bottles that you can use for your newborn baby if they are going to need assistance with feeding. The Haberman, Mead Johnson, Pigeon, and the new Dr. Brown’s Specialty Feeding System are all designed for babies with little to no suction. There are other bottles that may also work for you that are easier to find, though your cleft team may or may not tell you about them. Here’s a list of bottles that other mommies have had success with. Remember… what may work for one baby, may not work for the other, but at least now you will know your options.
We highly recommend that all new cleft parents educate themselves on how to use each of the special feeders prior to birth, if possible. Many nurses (even at hospitals with top level NICUs) do not have much experience with clefts so you shouldn’t rely on them to know how. The Cleft Palate Foundation has some excellent videos to help you get the hang of each of the main cleft bottles (note: the new Dr. Brown’s are not yet included, but would be very similar to the Pigeon video). You can find those videos here: Feeding Your Baby. We’ve also included additional video links within each bottle description, where available.
The Medela SpecialNeeds Feeder (formerly Haberman)
The Haberman is one of the bottles that you may be sent home with from the hospital. It is specifically designed for babies with poor to no sucking ability: the nipple itself has 3 flow levels (slow, medium, and fast), which you select based on your baby’s needs, alternating between them as necessary. While the baby may be able to express milk on their own by compressing the nipple (biting on it), you as the parent are able to help your baby eat by squeezing the nipple to increase the flow of the milk. The great thing about this bottle is that all the parts coincide with any Medela pumping system, meaning you can use the nipples and rings on a regular size Medela bottle. The downside to these bottles is that they are pretty expensive, and the nipples have a short lifespan, so they have to be replaced often. Average price per bottle is $20, and they can be bought on Medela’s website (scroll down to Specialty Feeding). We have also found the complete bottle as well as just the replacement nipple on Amazon.
Click here to watch a video by Mandy Haberman (inventor of the bottle) on how to use the Medela SpecialNeeds Feeder.
From the makers of Enfamil, the Mead Johnson Cleft Palate Nurser is another specific cleft feeder. These are “disposable” bottles and again you, as the parent, will have to squeeze the bottle in order for you child to get any milk. The good side to these is they are pretty inexpensive, and if your hospital is a Mead Johnson supporter, more than likely you can get these bottles for free. The bad side is that they have a tendency to leak due to the poor airflow. Price is about $20 for a pack of 6, available on the Enfamil website.
Click here to watch a video from the Cleft Palate Foundation on how to use the Mead Johnson bottle.
Pigeon Nipple and Bottle
The Pigeon nipple is different than the previous two because of the fact that you don’t have to express the milk for your child. The Pigeon nipple comes with a special one-way valve that goes at the base of the nipple, which allows milk to enter the nipple but not flow back into the bottle itself. Therefore your child just has to bite down on the nipple to express milk. In addition, the nipple is thicker on the top and softer on the bottom, making it easier for the baby to compress, and there is an air vent in the nipple to help minimize how much air the baby swallows. The good side to this option is that your child does the work – they will eat at their own pace, and since there’s nothing special to do, anyone can feed your baby with this nipple. The nipple also fits on many regular bottles (eg, Dr. Brown’s, Playtex Ventaire, Gerber, and Parent’s Choice are some that have been used by mommies with the Pigeon nipple). The downside is that unless your team provides them to you, the nipples have to be ordered online and they are pretty expensive – we’ve found a wide span of pricing depending on what company/site you order from. The Pigeon nipple can be ordered by itself or as part of the Pigeon bottle setup, although the bottle is nothing special. (MOM TIP: the Pigeon nipple comes in two options: a clear, silicone version as well as a gold, latex version. Many moms have expressed their preference for the clear nipple, claiming it is more durable and collapses less than the gold one). Average price per nipple can range from about $5-$7/each (again, depending on where you buy them). We’ve found the Pigeon bottle setup (bottle, ring, and two nipples and valves) available on Amazon for varying prices as well.
Click here to watch a video on how to use the Pigeon Nipple.
Dr. Brown’s Specialty Feeding System
Dr. Brown’s Bottles are very popular when it comes to helping babies with colic, reflux and/or gas because of their patented air flow system. These bottles are great for cleft babies because they can be prone to having a lot of gas and/or reflux due to the amount of air that they swallow. In the past, many moms used these bottles by inserting a pigeon valve into the Dr. Brown’s standard nipple. Luckily, Dr. Brown’s has recently launched their own specialty feeding system with a valve included, so we no longer have to hunt down pigeon valves to pair with their bottles. Like the Pigeon bottle above, all the baby must do is compress/bite the nipple and the one-way valve ensures the milk flows into their mouth and not back into the bottle. (MOM TIP: Although not sold as part of the Specialty System, Dr. Brown’s offers a standard Y-cut nipple that you should be able to pair with the specialty valve, which offers a faster flow that many moms have said worked best for their babies. The difference between the fast flow Y-cut and the Level 3 or 4 is the Y-cut flows only when compressed, while the level 3 or 4 constantly drip even when not compressed). This system is currently available on Amazon, where you have the option of purchasing a complete system that includes 2 bottles, 4 nipples and a valve for $19.99, or if you already have their bottles, you can simply purchase the replacement pack that includes 6 nipples and 3 valves for $17.99. They also have a Starter Kit available, which includes a larger variety of bottles and nipples to get started.
Click here to watch a video on how to use the Dr. Brown’s Specialty Feeding System.
Green Sprouts Silicone Bottle
Green Sprouts Silicone Bottles are another type of “squeeze” bottle that you can use. These bottles are a lot easier to find than the special cleft feeders, such as the Haberman and Mead Johnson. You can actually walk into a CVS and buy these (if your local store carries them). As far as price goes, these are more middle of the road and the only negative feedback we’ve received with these is the lack of an air vent system. Average price per bottle is $13.
Innobaby Nursin’ Smart Silicone Bottle
Innobaby Nursin’ Smart Silicone bottles are very similar to the Green Sprouts bottle, except more expensive. The average price of this bottle is $25.
Comotomo is another type of silicone bottle that you would squeeze to express milk. This one differs from the Green Sprouts bottle because it has a built in air vent on the nipples. Average price per bottle is $17.
Prince Lionheart Silicone Bottle
Prince Lionheart Silicone Bottles are very similar to the Comotomo and are less expensive. This bottle also has a one way air vent in the nipple to reduce colic and gas. The average price for this bottle is $10
The Tendercare Feeder is commonly used for after your child has surgery. Every surgeon is different in their restrictions for you, so definitely check with yours if they suggest this for your child after having any kind of cleft related surgery. These are sold in packs of 5 for $20 on the Pediatric Medical Solutions website.
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