Why Are Some Babies Born With a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate?

Why Are Some Babies Born With a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate?


Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that cause openings or splits in the upper lip, roof of the mouth (palate), or both. They happen when an unborn baby’s developing facial structures do not close completely.

A baby can be born with cleft lip, cleft palate, or both of these.

Will My Child Need Cleft Surgery?

As children grow, they often need surgery to improve how their face, nose, mouth, and throat look and work.

Caring for a child’s cleft involves correcting complex problems with personalized treatments and procedures. Some babies and children will need multiple surgeries to repair their cleft. But not every child with a cleft lip or cleft palate needs multiple surgeries.

Conditions & Treatments

Surgery or Treatment When Does This Treatment Happen?
Prenatal Counseling Before delivery
Alveolar Molding (or NAM) Before your child turns 1 month old
Primary Cleft Lip Repair 3 months old
Palate Repair 9-12 months old
Speech Surgery 4+ years old
Lip Scar Revision Variable (can happen at different ages)
Palate Expansion 5-9 years old
Alveolar Bone Graft After palate expansion
Midface Surgery (Le Fort or Jaw Surgery) 18 years or older
Cleft Septorhinoplasty (Nose Job) 18 years or older

Feeding & Weight Gain

Most children with cleft lip or palate will grow and develop normally and healthily. But some of these babies will have feeding problems and may have trouble gaining weight. For these babies, it's important they get extra help and attention so they can have the nutrition they need to grow and heal from their upcoming surgeries. 

Many providers don’t know about the challenges of feeding cleft babies. It’s important to find a doctor who knows about cleft feeding problems. Our pediatric facial plastic surgeons work with children with breathing problems on a daily basis and have the right expertise to care for your child.

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Interdisciplinary Care: Choosing the Best Surgeon For Your Child

Children with cleft lip and palate need care from many types of providers with different specialties. These providers help improve your child's health and quality of life as they grow.

Your surgeon should be the leader of your child's team and help your family navigate through your child's care, both early and long-term.

We encourage families to learn how to choose their child’s cleft surgeon.

Are you looking for an ENT or a Plastic Surgeon?