Cleft Lip Timeline
Surgery to repair cleft lip is participatory: it depends on the parents’ active care, and we want to give you every resource we can to help you ensure the best care for your child. If your child is born with a cleft lip, here’s what to expect:
Pre- and Post-Natal Care
The first step is choosing a team, educating yourself, and preparing to feed your child once he or she is able to leave the hospital. It is vitally important to see your surgeon as early as possible, in the first days of life, especially if the child has a cleft palate or other complications.
First Weeks of Life
In the first weeks of life, prior to formal surgery to repair the cleft, we often recommend pre-surgical measures (i.e. Dynacleft) in order to prepare the child for surgery, and it has been shown that early intervention reduces scarring.
Surgery at 3 to 4 Months
Most surgeons prefer to wait some number of weeks before surgery. There are many reasons of this, but chief among them is the stability of the child’s overall health. Any ACPA-approved team will want to ensure that the nasal cartilage—the defining structures in the nose—are stable before performing surgery.
Immediate Care Following Surgery to Repair Cleft Lip
In the weeks following surgery to repair cleft lip, the child’s parents will need to be vigilant.
Sutures (stitches) are usually removed under anesthesia a week after surgery, but the success of the surgery depends on the parents’ after-care. The child’s successfully repaired lip will require massage by the parents 4 to 5 times a day, for just 15 to 20 seconds, in order to break up scar tissue that is the natural result of surgery.
Checkup at 10 Months
Your ACPA-certified team will be there for you throughout the growth and maturation of your child. (Click here to read about ongoing care of children who have more complicated orofacial clefts.) At 10 months, any complications of early surgery will likely be evident and a future plan of care can be established.
Yearly Checkups Following Surgery to Repair Cleft Lip
The good news for children who are born with a cleft lip, without other complications, is that they can expect a normal childhood. Yearly checkups should be observed, and ongoing speech therapy—even before they start speaking (at age 2 or thereafter)—is highly recommended. Regular dental cleanings are a must.
Sometimes rhinoplasty is indicated (the child might need a “nose job”), and sometimes braces or other corrective dental surgery are required, but for the most part children with isolated cleft lip do very well.
Regardless, yearly checkups and the support of a well-trained team should give both parent and child all the confidence needed to live a happy, healthy life.