A cleft lip or cleft palate are among the most common birth defects. However, because they are so common, they can be easily repaired. The condition is recognizable by an opening in the lip or the roof of a baby’s mouth. While it may be upsetting for parents to see their child this way, the good news is that corrective surgery not only restores a more normal appearance, but it can also restore normal function for the child as well.
What to Know About Cleft Lip or Palate Surgery
Corrective surgery for a cleft palate or lip typically does not take place before a baby is six months old. The operation will involve closing the gap in the lip or the roof of the mouth. For a cleft palate surgery, the muscles will be rearranged, and the wound closed with dissolvable stitches. For cleft palate surgery, the scar will be inside the mouth but if your baby has a cleft lip, there will be a scar between the lip and nose (but this should fade with time).
Most cleft palate or lip surgeries take about two hours, during which time baby will be placed under general anesthetic. It may be necessary for further surgeries when the child is older, but this will be discussed with you only if appropriate for your child.
What to Do After Surgery
Your baby will be taken to a recovery room after surgery, and you will be able to go to them as soon as they start to wake up. Baby is likely to be sore for a few days and will be given painkillers to help with the pain. It may be difficult for your baby to eat straight after surgery. If this is the case, the medical team may recommend placing a tube through the nostril and into the stomach to allow them to feed.
Soft foods should be given if baby is happy to feed. Milk and pureed food are good choices. Your baby may be more comfortable if their head is raised. The staff at the hospital will help with this.
Sleeping may be uncomfortable, and baby may pull at the wound causing them to wake in pain. To prevent this from happening, you could consider a cleft swaddle from Cozeecoo. This comfortable sleep sack made from organic cotton will keep your baby’s arms restrained while allowing them to move their legs freely. It will ensure they cannot remove their drip or scratch their wound. It also allows you to change diapers easily.
When You Go Home
Once at home, you should mimic the sleeping conditions for your child. Continue using the sleep sack until the wound has healed and raise baby’s head by placing a folded towel or pillow under the sheet of the cot mattress.
Do not allow your child to play roughly with you or other children to avoid the healing wound from opening. Be careful to ensure your child does not place objects in their mouth and avoid using a pacifier.
Continue to feed soft foods and be careful when using forks or spoons. Straws should be avoided.
Pain relief can be administered as per the instructions of the nurse or physician. Your child may be sore for a number of days after going home, so pain relief will help.
It can take a few weeks for the wound to heal and the stitches to dissolve. During this time, it is important to rinse baby’s mouth with cooled, boiled water after they have anything to eat or drink and after their medication.