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Cleft Palate Repair in Children: What to Expect at Home

Your Child's Recovery

Cleft palate repair is surgery to fix a split (cleft) in the roof of the mouth, which is called the palate. The doctor made a cut (incision) along the edge of the cleft inside your child's mouth. Then the doctor used stitches to bring the cut edges together to cover the split.

Your child may need pain medicine for the first few days after surgery. The area around your child's mouth may be swollen for the first 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Your child may be more fussy than usual.

Your child will have stitches in the roof of their mouth that will slowly dissolve. Many children have a stuffy nose after surgery. If your child has trouble with congestion, your doctor may suggest a nose spray.

Most children are back to their usual behaviour about a week after surgery. It usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks for the incision to heal. Your child may need to wear padded arm splints for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery to prevent rubbing the surgery area.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to make sure your child gets better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?


  • Allow your child to slowly become more active. Have him or her rest as much as needed. Make sure he or she gets enough sleep at night.
  • Put your child to sleep on his or her back. This will help your child breathe more easily.
  • For the first few weeks after surgery:
    • Do not allow your child to run, play roughly, or do other activities that could damage the incision.
    • Do not use a pacifier or let your child put his or her hand, toys, or other objects in his or her mouth.


  • Follow the doctor's instructions for feeding your child. You may need to use a special bottle or syringe for the first few weeks to give your child breast milk or formula.
  • When you start feeding your child soft foods, be careful not to damage the stitches with a spoon or fork.
  • Give your child plenty of fluids. But do not let your child drink from a straw.
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor or nurse advice line.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think pain medicine is making your child sick to his or her stomach:
    • Give your child the medicine after meals (unless the doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your child's doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Have your child take them as directed. Do not stop giving them to your child just because he or she feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You cannot wake your child up.
  • Your child coughs up blood.
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has pain that does not seem to get better after you give him or her pain medicine.
  • Your child has a fever over 38°C.
  • Your child is bleeding from the nose or mouth.
  • Your child is not eating or drinking.
  • Your child has signs of needing more fluids. These signs include sunken eyes with few tears, a dry mouth with little or no spit, and little or no urine for 6 hours.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.