A New Cleft Initiative
Over the last decade, LWB has helped thousands of orphaned children find the hope and healing they deserve. We continually ask ourselves, however, what more we can be doing to help prevent abandonment and keep families together.
Many years ago, we began our Unity Initiative, which provides essential pediatric medical care to rural and impoverished families. This project has been a huge success, and so earlier this year we began asking what more we could do to support families who feel overwhelmed when a baby is born with a medical need.
One of the most common special needs we see in orphanages is cleft lip and palate, which has the highest incidence in Asia. This past spring, we decided to create a new Cleft Initiative to get educational pamphlets and soft, squeezable bottles into maternity hospitals in China. These materials could quickly be given to families who give birth to a child with cleft, with the hope that if they learn of the support systems in place for children with this special need, perhaps some abandonments could be prevented.
We have just finalized the information for the brochures, which are being translated into Chinese this week. The brochures explain in easy-to-read language that breast feeding is best for babies with cleft, along with tips to help nursing succeed. The next section is about the use of cleft bottles if a baby is unable to nurse, with clear instructions on how to feed a child with cleft. The last section of the brochure discusses surgery options and lists many groups currently providing free or reduced-price cleft operations to families in China.
We will be starting this pilot project in maternity hospitals in Fujian and Anhui provinces, and free bottles will be available to parents in need. Through our cleft surgery trips, we have met so many rural families who have told us about the difficult decision they faced in deciding whether or not to abandon their child born with cleft. Many families have told us that they left their child at a hospital or orphanage in panic when their baby wouldn’t eat or began to lose weight. It is very humbling to think that in many cases, a $2 squeeze bottle could have helped create a different outcome.
Our goal is to have the first set of brochures and free bottles available to hospitals in early August. We will keep you updated this fall on whether families and doctors feel they are helpful.
We are so grateful to everyone who has supported our Cleft Bottle Project as we were able to get these life-saving bottles to orphanages throughout China in 2012. Now our hope is to get these essential educational materials and bottles to families and hospitals as well.