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Health Information For Parents
Babies who are born with cleft lip have a gap or opening in the upper lip. This happens when the baby’s lip doesn’t form properly early in pregnancy, resulting in a split.
These orofacial clefts are some of the most common birth defects. Most kids can have surgery to repair them early in life.
A baby with a cleft might have:
A cleft lip can be:
Clefts can range in size:
During the first 6 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the bones and skin of a baby’s upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. A cleft lip happens when parts of the upper lip and/or gum do not fuse together completely.
Doctors don’t always know why a baby develops a cleft lip, though some clefts may be related to genetic (inherited) factors. Also, some environmental factors can increase the risk of a birth defect, such as:
Usually, cleft lip is found when a baby is born. Sometimes, it’s seen on a prenatal ultrasound.
Cleft lip can be associated with feeding problems. Later in life, it may lead to dental problems, speech problems, and even issues with self-esteem and social interactions. So it’s important to correct a cleft lip with surgery while a child is young.
Most babies who have a cleft lip have a surgery called cheiloplasty (KY-lo-plass-tee) to repair it when they’re about 3 months old. This is done in the hospital while the baby is under general anesthesia.
The goals of cleft lip repair are to:
If the cleft lip is wide, special procedures like lip adhesion or nasal alveolar molding (NAM) might help bring the parts of the lip closer together and improve the shape of the nose before the cleft lip repair. Cleft lip repair usually leaves a small scar under the nose.
Cleft lip repair and other surgeries to help kids born with a cleft lip have greatly improved in recent years. Most kids who undergo them have very good results. There are risks with any surgery, though, so call the doctor if your child:
A baby with a cleft lip can sometimes have other health problems, such as:
It’s important to work with a care team experienced in treating children with cleft lip and palate. Besides the pediatrician, a child’s treatment team will include:
You might also work with:
Some children with cleft lip may need more surgeries as they get older. These might include:
Most kids with cleft lip are treated successfully with no lasting problems. A team experienced in treating children with cleft lip and palate can create a treatment plan tailored to your child’s needs.
The psychologists and social workers on the treatment team are there for you and your child. So turn to them to help guide you through any hard times. You also can find more information and support online:
A cleft palate is when a baby is born with a cleft (gap) in the roof of the mouth. Most kids can have surgery to repair them early in life.
A cleft palate with a cleft lip is when a baby’s lip and palate (roof of mouth) don’t form properly during pregnancy. Most kids with cleft lip and palate are treated successfully with no lasting problems.
In a submucous cleft palate, the muscles of the palate don’t form properly, but the tissue that lines the roof of the mouth does. This makes these clefts harder to see.
Speech-language pathologists help kids with speech problems related to a cleft palate. Find out what they do.
You might visit a speech therapist if you’re having trouble speaking or understanding others. Find out more in this article for kids.
Ear infections are common among kids and, often, painful. Find out what causes them and how they’re treated.
Lots of images may come to mind when you think of plastic surgery. This special type of surgery involves a person’s appearance and ability to function.
Do you know someone who stutters or has another speech disorder? Find out how speech disorders are treated, how you can help a friend or classmate cope, and lots more.
Some birth defects are minor and cause no problems; others cause major disabilities. Learn about the different types of birth defects, and how to help prevent them.
If your child has a birth defect, you don’t have to go it alone – many people and resources are available to help you.
What teachers should know about students with speech impairments, and what teachers can do to help them succeed in school.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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