You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on

This one is about: Feeding Newborn Baby with a Dixie Cup

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Someone on Cleft Talk wrote:

Our PS said to introduce her to a tippy cup because she will need to get milk from it after surgery. I can't imagine a 3 month old drinking from a cup, my others starting playing around with a cup at maybe 6 months. It would help to know what others have done about this. By the way she is breastfed. This is all so scary to me. It is great to know others have made it through something I am so scared of.


Well, having introduced myself as a new member to this group just a couple of days ago, it seems I have something else to share....this time in regards to "Tippy Cups" and at what age they should be introduced.

You might recall from my first post that my daughter, Laura, was born with a unilateral wide cleft lip and palate, but she is doing just fine and has never had problems with speech development.

With Laura, breastfeeding was not possible, and our pediatrician suggested that we simply feed her breast milk and supplemental formula with a small, soft paper cup. That's right, even as a newborn, we never even experimented with special bottle nipples or other devices. Laura was fed starting at the age of about 12 hours directly from these small paper cups (paper cups are softer and more pliable that the typical plastic "Tippy Cups" that are usually used when weaning infants.)

My wife and I were always amazed at how easy this method of feeding was right from the very start. In fact, it worked so well for us, I have been somewhat surprised to see that no one else in this group has ever mentioned this simple, cheap, hygienic way of feeding cleft lip and palate babies.

The only trick to it is to start with tipping very small amounts of the formula into the baby's mouth. While everyone knows that babies have a natural "sucking" instinct, they also apparently have a natural swallowing instinct. We never had problems with feeding Laura. In fact, after a few days we had to intentionally slow down the feeding process so that Laura would not miss out on the important cuddling and touching and general attention that a suckling baby would be receiving. This method of feeding was easy for both parent and child--the feeding was always a relaxed, un-stressful experience, and I think that is important. I'm convinced that babies, even at a very early age, can pick up on things like parents worrying and fiddling, and with all the other things we were worried about, it was nice not to have to worry about feeding our new baby.

ANYWAY, from our experience, teaching very young kids to drink from a cup should not be difficult. My advice is to make cup-feeding as similar as possible to a breast- or bottle-feeding experience by cradling the child, keeping the child more upright that with a bottle, and introducing very small sips into the baby's mouth. Plan on taking about the same amount of time to do this type of feeding as if it were a bottle- or breast- feeding experience.

I guess one reason that this method is not more widely used is the belief that early sucking might be important to later speech and other development. But, while I realize it is dangerous to generalize on the basis of individual anecdotal experience,  as I pointed out in my first post, Laura has never had significant speech problems, even with a persistent fistula in the roof of her mouth.

In this regard, here is an oft-told family anecdote from Laura's second day in the hospital. I was sitting in the hospital room, feeding my one-day-old baby from a paper cup when a nurse walked by the room, saw what I was doing, and screamed "Don't you know how to feed a baby?" The nurse came storming into the room, finally noticed Laura's rather obvious facial anomaly, and immediately U-turns out of the room just as fast without saying another word. My wife and I looked at each other and had our first laugh together since Laura had been born.

John W.

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