Skip to Content

Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate Repair


Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is surgery to close the openings in your child's lip and mouth. Your child may have a cleft lip repair, a cleft palate repair, or both.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight an infection caused by bacteria. Give your child this medicine exactly as ordered by his healthcare provider. Do not stop giving your child the antibiotics unless directed by his healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or give your child leftover antibiotics that were given to him for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: Your child may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give your child his medicine.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

How to feed your child:

Feeding your child can be difficult. Try to be calm and patient. This will help your child relax as he eats. Teach others how to feed your child. This will give you support and help you manage stress. The following tips will help you feed your child:

  • Breastfeeding helps your child suck better because your breast fills the cleft. Breastfeeding also decreases your child's risk of ear infections and helps strengthen the muscles he uses to eat.
  • Healthcare providers will work with you to find the best bottles, nipples, and other supplies to feed your child. These supplies may help decrease your child's risk of choking.
  • Feed your child in an upright position. His head should be higher than his stomach. This will help prevent choking. It will also help keep liquids from coming out of his nose or going into his ears.
  • Feed your child slowly over 18 to 30 minutes. Burp him after every 1 to 2 ounces of liquid he drinks to decrease the amount of air he swallows.
  • Do not lay your child down with a bottle. This may increase his risk of choking, ear infections, and cavities.

Speech and nutrition therapy:

Your child may need therapy to help with his speech. You may also need to meet with a dietitian to learn the best foods for your child.

Protect your child's incisions:

Your child's mouth needs to be protected for 6 weeks after surgery. It may take this long for your child's mouth to heal. If the stitches are not protected, they could pull or break. This may cause more bleeding, pain, or scarring for your child. Your child may need another surgery if the stitches separate. It is important to watch your child at all times to prevent this from happening.

  • Do not let your child put his hands or objects into his mouth. Padded arm boards can be used to keep your child's elbows straight. This will help keep your child from rubbing his face with his hands or upper arms. Long sleeves should be worn under the arm boards to keep them from rubbing on your child's skin. Remove the arm boards 3 to 4 times a day so your child's arms can get exercise. Do not leave your child alone when the arm boards are off.
  • Do not let your child sleep on his stomach. He should sleep on his back or side. This will help prevent your child from rubbing his face on the sheets. Dress your child in clothes that snap or button in the front.

Help prevent infection:

  • Keep your child away from people with colds, the flu, or other infections until his mouth is healed.
  • Keep the inside of your child's mouth wet. This will help keep the surgery area clean. Sit your child up with his head forward to prevent choking. Gently spray water or salt water on the roof of his mouth using a spray bottle as directed. Do this after each feeding and at bedtime.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider or specialist as directed:

Your child may need to return for more tests. He may also need to have his weight measured. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • Cleft Palate Foundation
    1504 E. Franklin St, Ste. 102
    Chapel Hill , North Carolina 27514-2820
    Phone: 1- 919 - 933-9044
    Web Address:

Contact your child's healthcare provider or specialist if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has chills, a cough, or sounds congested.
  • You feel overwhelmed and need help to feed your child.
  • Your child does not eat as well as he usually does.
  • Your child acts tired, sleepy, restless, or fussy.
  • Your child has a fever, ear pain, and trouble hearing.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child's stitches come apart.
  • Your child's stitches are red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • Your child has severe pain.
  • Your child will not eat or drink.
  • Your child cries without tears.
  • Your child's lips, mouth, and tongue are very dry.
  • Your child's eyes look sunken in.
  • Your baby's soft spot on the top of his head is sunken.
  • Your child urinates very little or none at all.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.