As I mentioned earlier, some babies we saw had very complicated health concerns, beyond what we were prepared to handle as a cleft team. What could be more difficult than turning a mother away? And yet, we sometimes must do just that.
Typically on these trips, babies must weigh ten pounds and be ten weeks old to have surgery. So when a mom arrived with an eight week old baby, weighing seven pounds, it was already unlikely that the baby would have a repair of the bilateral cleft lip on this trip. When we discovered that the baby had some severe gastrointestinal concerns, I had a sinking feeling. This was not the kind of kid where the surgeons could operate and just skip town. This baby would not get surgery this trip.
However, the speech team did have something of value to offer this mom and child.
Babies with cleft lip are usually good breast feeders, once the mom figures out a position that works. The tongue and the hard palate are way more important than the lips for stripping the milk from the breast. But this baby had a palatial cleft as well, so nursing was an extreme challenge. The mom had been expressing her milk into a bottle and trying to feed the baby with the only gear she had. It was almost working. Lindsay and Vanessa set her up on a system where she could express the milk directly into a bottle, screw on a cleft-appropriate nipple, and feed the baby much more efficiently. They worked with her for a long time and made sure she had the hang of it. Hopefully with this system in place, the baby will gain well and perhaps have surgery next time.
We were glad to have something to offer, even though it was not what they came for.