Nutrition & Feeding

Nutrition Paves The Way For New Smiles

Operation Smile global nutrition programs offer a holistic approach to ensure patients receive safe, timely and effective surgery. This National Nutrition Month, we are proud to highlight our ongoing commitment to provide critical nutritional to our patients.

Through our expertise in treating cleft conditions, Operation Smile creates solutions that deliver safe surgery and make a difference in the lives of children and their families. Our commitment to quality care goes beyond surgery. Children born with cleft conditions often require pre- and post-surgery comprehensive care such as dentistry, orthodontics, speech therapy, psychosocial and nutrition.

Malnutrition contributes to the deaths of 3.1 million children less than 5 years old annually, which is 45% of all deaths for that age group. Operation Smile patients are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, due to difficulty eating caused by the cleft condition. Without timely intervention, patients with cleft conditions can suffer significant health problems or even death and are at higher risk of complications from surgery.

When All Seemed Lost, Hope for Janat Was Found

We first met Janat when she was 1 month old during an Operation Smile Morocco surgical program in March 2020. Due to her cleft lip and palate, she had become severely malnourished and unable to breastfeed.

Compared to the overall population, infants with cleft conditions have nine times the odds of dying within the first year of life. Operation Smile addresses the need for nutritional intervention through global nutrition programs that ensure patients receive safe, timely and effective surgical care. Nutrition and feeding are at the core of our comprehensive care model that aims to support patients’ optimal growth and development.

Our nutrition strategy includes providing patient care, educating caregivers and increasing local capacity. The program offers the distribution of special bottles, ready-to-use therapeutic food, vitamins, formula and food. We also conduct training sessions on feeding, breastfeeding, water sanitation, hygiene and family planning.

A Historic Shipment is Saving Lives in Colombia

After seeing a heart-wrenching number of patients arriving malnourished, Operation Smile ships 99 cases to address the increase of Colombian citizens facing food insecurity.

Our commitment to patient care includes providing breastfeeding support. Globally, nearly 600,000 children under 5 years of age die from inadequate breastfeeding each year. Breastfeeding is complicated for infants with cleft conditions. Success can be limited and varies considerably based on the infant’s condition and the support provided to the mother and family.

To successfully support mothers in providing breastmilk for their infants, the following are critical:​

  • Early identification of infants with cleft conditions.​
  • Breastfeeding education, including safe breastmilk expression instruction, as early as possible in the perinatal period.​
  • Regular follow-up to ensure that the infant grows and gains weight appropriately.​



When a child is born with a cleft condition, it affects their health, their self-confidence, their ability to make friends and their future.

It takes as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.

Help us help children born with cleft lip and palate have a better chance at life.

Compared to six countries at the end of 2019, 28 of our 33 program countries now provide nutrition-based programming as of January 2022. This programming includes a variety of context-appropriate solutions based on the six components of our comprehensive nutrition model and has directly reached over 8,000 patients with cleft lip and palate during the pandemic.