Your child had surgery to repair birth defects that caused a cleft in which the lip or the roof of the mouth did not grow together normally while your child was in the womb. Your child had general anesthesia (asleep and not feeling pain) for the surgery.
Children will have stuffy noses and may have to breathe through their mouths for the first week. There will be some drainage from their mouths and noses. The drainage should go away after about 1 week.
Clean the incision (surgery wound) after feeding your child.
Some stitches will go away on their own. The doctor or nurse will need to take others out at the first follow-up visit. Do not remove your child's stitches yourself.
You will need to protect your child's incision.
Young infants should be eating only breast milk or formula. When feeding, hold your infant in an upright position.
Use a cup or the side of a spoon for giving your child drinks. If you use a bottle, use only the kind of bottle and nipple that your doctor has recommended.
Older infants or young children will need to have their food softened or pureed for some time after surgery so it is easy to swallow. Use a blender or food processor to prepare food for your child.
Children who are eating foods other than breast milk or formula should be sitting when they eat. Feed them only with a spoon. Do not use forks, straws, chopsticks, or other utensils that can harm their incisions.
There are many good food choices for your child after surgery. Always make sure the food is cooked until it is soft, then pureed. Good food options include:
Foods your child should not eat include:
Your child may play quietly. Avoid running and jumping until the doctor or nurse says it is OK.
Your child may go home with arm cuffs or splints. These will keep your baby from rubbing or scratching the incision. Your child will need to wear the cuffs most of the time for about 2 weeks. Put on the cuffs over a long-sleeve shirt. Tape them to the shirt to keep them in place if needed.
Ask your doctor or nurse when it is safe to go swimming. Children may have tubes in their eardrums and need to keep water out of their ears.
Your doctor or nurse will refer your child to a speech therapist. Most times, speech therapy lasts 2 months.
Call your doctor if:
Orofacial cleft - discharge; Craniofacial birth defect repair - discharge; Cheiloplasty - discharge; Cleft rhinoplasty - discharge; Palatoplasty - discharge; Tip rhinoplasty - discharge
Arosarena OA. Cleft lip and palate. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2007 Feb;40(1):27-60.
Friedman O, Wang TD, Milczuk HA. Cleft lip and palate In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 186.
Updated by: David A. Lickstein, MD, FACS, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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