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.


Before your child's surgery:

  • Write down the date, time, and location of your child's surgery.
  • When you take your child to see his caregiver, bring a list of his medicines or the medicine bottles. Tell caregivers if your child uses herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine. If your child is allergic to any medicine, tell his caregiver.
  • Your child may need to take antibiotics before surgery to help prevent an infection. Give them as directed.
  • Show your child the padded arm boards that will be used after surgery. Explain that they are to keep him from touching his mouth by accident. Put the padded arm boards on your child for a short time. This will help your child be less afraid if the boards are put on after surgery.
  • Teach your child to drink from a cup, the side of a spoon, or a syringe. This may help prepare your child for new ways to drink after surgery.
  • Practice cleaning your child's mouth. Sit your child up with his head forward. Gently spray water or salt water on the roof of his mouth using a spray bottle as directed. Let your child hold the spray bottle so he will not be afraid.

The night before your child's surgery:

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your child's surgery:

  • Dress your child in loose, comfortable clothing. Use a shirt that buttons or snaps in the front.
  • Bring a blanket or favorite toy to keep with your child while he is in the hospital. This may help him feel less afraid.
  • Bring any special bottles, nipples, or supplies you have been using to feed your child at home.
  • Ask your child's healthcare provider before you give your child any medicine on the day of surgery. These medicines include insulin, antibiotics, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or prescription medicines.
  • Healthcare providers may insert an IV tube into your child's vein, usually in his arm. Your child may be given liquids and medicine through the IV tube.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you and your child before the surgery. Your child may need medicine to keep him asleep or numb an area of his body during surgery. Tell caregivers if anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery on your child. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

You will be asked to help your child change into a hospital gown. Medicine may be given in your child's IV to help him relax or make him drowsy. Your child will get general anesthesia to keep him asleep during surgery. To repair your child's lip or palate, the surgeon will cut along each side of the cleft. Tissue from both sides of the cleft will be brought together to close the hole. The edges are sewn together with stitches. These will help the wound stay closed as the cleft heals. If your child's cleft involves his nose, the nostril may be reshaped at this time or in a later surgery.

After your child's surgery:

Your child will be taken to a room where he can rest after the procedure. Healthcare providers will watch him closely. Your child will then be taken to a regular hospital room. Do not let your child get out of bed until a healthcare provider says it is okay.


  • Your child has a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's surgery.


  • Your child may bleed more than usual or get an infection after surgery. Your child may have trouble breathing or get blood clots. If your child puts his hands or an object into his mouth, he can damage the incision. If your child's skin separates away from the stitches, surgery may have to be done again. This may also cause more scarring. The most common problem with cleft lip repair is when the side of the repaired lip does not line up with the other side. The most common problem with cleft palate repair is poor healing. It is common for children with clefts to need repair surgery more than once.
  • Without treatment, your child may have problems sucking. This can delay how much weight he gains as he grows. He may be tired after he eats because he has to work harder to suck and swallow. Feeding problems may cause liquids to back up into your child's ear canals. This increases the chance of ear infections and long-term hearing problems. The cleft may also cause your child to have problems with speech.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.