What Expectant Parents Should Know About Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate

Health & Medical Blog

All expectant parents hope to give birth to a healthy, perfect baby, but unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Some birth defects are relatively minor and easily corrected, however. Orofacial defects, more commonly known as cleft palate and cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate, are one of the most common birth defects. A birth defect occurs in approximately 3 percent of all births. Here is what you should know about caring for a child with a cleft palate.

What Is A Cleft Lip And Palate?

When an embryo is just in its fourth week of development, the facial features begin to form. It forms by the cell tissues growing from the sides of the face, eventually coming together in the middle. Sometimes, these cell tissues don't fuse together the way they are supposed to. This can create a cleft in the lip, the palate (the roof of the mouth), or both. A cleft is a split. In the case of a cleft lip, the lip may be split, sometimes up to the nose. In a cleft palate, the roof of the baby's mouth is split open rather than a complete roof.

What Other Symptoms Are Associated With a Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate?

A child is usually diagnosed with a cleft lip or cleft palate when they are still in utero as the condition can be typically seen in an ultrasound. Depending on the severity and location of the cleft, the child may have dental issues, difficulty feeding, difficulty speaking, and hearing infections or problems.

How Is A Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate Treated?

A cleft lip or cleft palate doesn't necessarily need to be problematic, though. A baby with a cleft will usually have their first surgery when they are just a few months old. Multiple surgeries may be required as the child grows, both to improve their chances of a normal appearance as well as to correct the defects or associated problems that may further develop with age. In addition to surgery, babies with cleft lips and/or cleft palates may need speech therapy. They often need specialized dental care as well once their teeth begin coming in.

Infants who are born with only a cleft lip can usually successfully bottle or breastfeed with minimal distress or a just a simple adaptation. In babies with cleft palates, however, the opening in the roof of the mouth prevents them from creating the suction necessary to draw from the nipple.  In these infants, the parents will be shown how to feed their child with a special bottle made for cleft palate babies.

Contact a medical service, like Cleft NY, for more assistance.


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