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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What are cleft lip and cleft palate?

A cleft lip is a condition that causes an opening or split in your child's upper lip. A cleft palate is in the roof of your child's mouth. Your child may have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate are types of birth defects. They happen when your child's lip or the roof of the mouth do not grow normally during pregnancy. A cleft happens early in pregnancy as your child's facial bones form. Your child may be more likely to have a cleft if a family member had one. Medicines, viral infections, smoking, or drinking alcohol during pregnancy may also increase your child's risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of cleft lip or cleft palate?

How is a cleft lip or cleft palate diagnosed?

Your baby's healthcare provider will be able to see a cleft lip as soon as your baby is born. The provider will check inside your baby's mouth for a cleft palate. A cleft lip or palate may also be seen on an ultrasound while your baby is still in the uterus.

How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated?

Cleft lip and cleft palate repair is surgery to close the openings in your child's lip or mouth. A cleft lip may be repaired when your child is 3 to 6 months old. A cleft palate can be repaired at 9 to 12 months of age.

Cleft Palate Repair

How do I feed my child?

Feeding your child can be difficult. Try to be calm and patient. This will help your child relax as he or she 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:

How can I manage my child's cleft lip or cleft palate?

Where can I find support and more information?

When should I call my baby's doctor?

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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Further information

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