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Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate


What are cleft lip and cleft palate?

A cleft lip is when there is an opening or split in your child's upper lip. A cleft palate is when there is an opening or split in the roof of your child's mouth. Your child may have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both of these birth defects. They happen when your child's lip or the roof of his mouth do not grow normally during pregnancy.

What increases my child's risk for cleft lip and cleft palate?

Your child may be more likely to have a cleft if a family member had one. A cleft happens early in pregnancy as your child's facial bones form. Medicines, viral infections, smoking, or drinking alcohol during pregnancy may increase your child's risk of clefts.

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

  • A split on one or both sides of your child's upper lip
  • A small notch in his lip or a wide opening from his top lip to his nose
  • A hole in the roof of your child's mouth
  • A split uvula (tissue hanging down in the back of your child's throat)

How are cleft lip and cleft palate diagnosed?

  • Fetal ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to show pictures of your baby inside your uterus. Your caregiver will rub gel on your abdomen and move a small, handheld tool through the gel. As this is done, pictures of your baby can be seen on a monitor.
  • Blood tests: Your child may need blood tests to give caregivers information about how his body is working. The blood may be taken from your child's arm, hand, finger, foot, heel, or IV.

How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated?

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate repair: This is surgery to close the openings in your child's lip and mouth.

What are the risks of cleft lip and cleft palate?

Your child may need more surgeries as he grows. He may need special dental care to help his teeth grow normally. 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.

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 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.
  • Caregivers 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.

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

  • 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.
  • Gently clean the cleft after each feeding: Use water and a cotton swab.

Where can I find 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:

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child will not eat or drink.
  • Your child cries without tears.
  • Your child's lips, mouth, and tongue are dry.
  • Your child's eyes look sunken in.
  • Your baby's soft spot on the top of his head is sunken.
  • Your child urinates small amounts or none at all.

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. 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.

© 2015 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.