Cleft lip and cleft palate are fairly common birth defects that can be treated with surgery. They often occur together. Cleft lip happens when the tissues of the upper jaw and nose do not join properly as a baby develops. This causes a split (cleft) in the lip. In most cases a cleft lip does not cause health problems.
Cleft palate happens when the roof of the mouth (palate) does not develop normally during pregnancy. This leaves an opening that may go through to the nasal cavity. It may affect any part of the palate, including the front part of the roof of the mouth (hard palate) or the small tag of tissue that hangs down from the soft palate (uvula). Some babies with cleft palates have trouble feeding.
Both these conditions are treated with surgery. Cleft lip is repaired in the first 5 months of a child's life; the timing depends on how bad it is. Cleft palate is fixed between 6 months and 18 months of age, and it often takes more than one surgery.
If your child is born with a cleft lip or palate, it is normal to have concerns and feelings that may include anger, fear, guilt, depression, or denial. You may wonder how your friends, relatives, other children, and even strangers will react to your baby's appearance. Try to focus on bonding with your baby; the other issues will not seem as important over time.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: July 26, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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