In April 2018, Bertha (nutritionist at CoRSU hospital) visited the Spires Cleft Centre in Oxford for one week. Interface Uganda paid for her trip (visa, travel costs, living expenses), and also donated fifty special feeding bottles and teats for cleft babies.
Here are excerpts from Bertha and Jane’s reports – you can find the full report from Bertha here, and the full report from Jane Sibley (cleft nurse specialist at the Spires) here.
From Bertha’s report:
I had the opportunity to visit the Spires Cleft centre at the John Radcliff hospital, Oxford, for one week from 21st April to 28th April 2018 to observe and witness different methods of feeding and management of cleft babies, with a special interest in babies who have feeding difficulties.
The visit entailed meeting and observing the work of different specialists such as cleft nurse specialists, paediatric dysphagia specialists, highly specialized speech and language therapists, the geneticist, cleft and plastic surgeons plus other members of the multi-disciplinary team as such orthodontic surgeons and Ear, Nose and Threat Specialists. All these are involved in the care and management of babies born with cleft lip and palate plus those with syndromes.
The Nutrition unit at CoRSU hospital receives approximately 170 cleft babies per year with a small percentage (13.5%) of these being syndromic cleft babies. The cleft babies seen at the unit face a number of challenges which include; inability to suckle and latch onto the mother’s breast, their caretakers lack knowledge about appropriate breast milk substitutes and supplements, families have a low socioeconomic status and sometimes cannot afford to buy these supplementary feeds, health workers in hospitals and health centers within different parts of Uganda are not equipped with knowledge of feeding cleft infants, poor social support systems and wide spread food insecurity. In addition to the above challenges syndromic babies have medical problems that predispose them to faltering growth. I expected to learn the feeding management of such babies at the spires cleft Centre in the United Kingdom.
From Jane’s report:
As many of you will know, I first met Bertha when I visited CoRSU just over 2 years ago in March 2016. During this visit, we struck up a friendship whilst sharing our very different experiences about feeding infants with cleft lip and palate. I was privileged to be able to share my in-depth knowledge on this subject with Bertha who was equally keen to learn from my experience. During this visit, we introduced soft bottles and teats for the nutrition team to use at CoRSU following Bertha’s request. I don’t mind admitting that I was a little nervous about this, mainly because I was worried about increased gastrointestinal infection rates (from the practicalities of being able to clean them between feeds) and also that they were used correctly. However, after my first week there, and seeing many infants with clefts as inpatients and outpatients together, Bertha and the team seemed to understand the theory behind them and the indications for using them.