During a clinic in Nicaragua last March, we met 2-month-old Dara. Dara, like so many other children, was born with a cleft lip and palate. Dara's mother was concerned that she wasn't gaining enough weight. She had been having diarrhea for a week and was having trouble latching on to the nipple of her bottle.
In Nicaragua, there is an old wives' tale that heat waves cause diarrhea. Our nutritionist for the unit, Geovanni, explained that this belief was unfounded, but that dehydration can, in fact, exacerbate diarrhea. He encouraged Dara's mother to consult with her physician on the true cause of the diarrhea.
Dara's mother was desperate to get her to eat something, so she was squirting formula into Dara's mouth, but to no avail. After spending time with the family, we realized that Mom had only been inserting Dara’s acrylic mouthpiece just prior to meal times, when she was supposed to be wearing it during all waking hours. Geovanni reinforced the importance of Dara being comfortable with wearing the mouthpiece consistently so her sucking reflex could improve.
As any Mom knows, nothing is more important than their child's health. It can be stressful making sure your child is getting all the nutrition it needs, but with the added complication of a cleft lip and palate, it's no wonder Dara's mother needed some help.
Luckily, Dara is in the 50th percentile in weight for her age, so she is not behind in her growth, but it’s still good that we were able to correct this problem early on.