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Frequently Asked Questions #2

How many surgeries are needed to correct a Cleft?

Services and treatment for children with orofacial clefts can vary depending on the severity of the cleft; the child’s age and needs; and the presence of associated syndromes or other birth defects, or both. Surgery to repair a cleft lip usually occurs in the first few months of life and is recommended within the first 12 months of life. Surgery to repair a cleft palate is recommended within the first 18 months of life or earlier if possible. Many children will need additional surgical procedures as they get older. Surgical repair can improve the look and appearance of a child’s face and might also improve breathing, hearing, and speech and language development. Children born with a cleft lip and/or palate might need other types of treatments and services, such as special dental or orthodontic care or speech therapy.

Can a Cleft cause other health problems?

Yes. Babies with just a cleft lip don't usually have feeding problems. But when the palate is involved, feeding can be a bigger challenge. Normally, the palate prevents food and liquids from entering the nose. A cleft palate causes babies to swallow a lot of air and regurgitate food into the nose. It also makes it harder for babies to latch on and suck during breastfeeding or bottle feeding. As a result, a baby with a cleft palate may need a special nipple and bottle to receive pumped breast milk or formula. Breastfeeding moms might want to talk with a lactation consultant, who can offer more guidance and suggestions. Babies with feeding issues should be seen regularly by a doctor to make sure that they're gaining weight well.

Many children with cleft palate are at risk for fluid buildup in the middle ear. This fluid can't pass through the Eustachian tube as it should, which can lead to ear infections and even hearing loss. So kids with cleft palate usually need ear tubes placed in their eardrums to help drain the fluid and improve hearing. Kids with cleft palate should have their ears and hearing checked once or twice a year, or more if they are having hearing problems.

Children with a cleft lip and palate often have dental problems. These can include small teeth, missing teeth, extra teeth (called supernumerary), or teeth that are out of position. They may have a defect in the gums or alveolar ridge (the bone that supports the teeth). Ridge defects can displace, tip, or rotate permanent teeth or prevent permanent teeth from coming in properly. Regular visits with a pediatric dentist who specializes in cleft lip and palate are important. The dentist will check a child's mouth growth and development, identify any problems, and make treatments when needed.

Kids with cleft lip have fewer speech problems than those with cleft palate. About 1 in 5 kids with cleft palate have speech problems after surgical repair. Most often, this means that a child's voice is hypernasal (sounding like the child is talking through the nose). This happens because the palate doesn't move well enough to prevent air from leaking out of the nose.

What is a craniofacial team?

Cleft and craniofacial teams provide a coordinated approach to care for children with orofacial clefts. These teams usually consist of experienced and qualified physicians and health care providers from different specialties. Cleft and craniofacial teams and centers are located throughout the United States and other countries.

Where can I find emotional support for myself if I have a cleft or my child if they have a cleft?

Right here at CleftProud! We want every single adult with a cleft, parent of a child with a cleft, and child with a cleft to feel supported and loved. We are here to help! You can connect with others just like you on our online community here or on our Facebook or Instagram! We want to help you become CleftProud!

Still have unanswered questions? Head over to our FAQ page :)

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