Cleft Palate

What is a cleft palate?

A cleft palate is a gap or hole in the roof of the mouth. This results in an abnormal connection between the mouth and nose.

Why are children born with cleft palate?

Although much research has been done on cleft palate, doctors and scientists do not completely understand why cleft palates occur. Likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the two sides of the palate do not come together while the fetus is developing.

Some children with cleft palate have other related abnormalities, but most children with cleft palate are otherwise healthy, normal children.

How common is cleft palate?

1/900 children are born with cleft palate. 70% of children with cleft palate also have a cleft lip.

Are there different types of cleft palate?

Yes, a child can have a cleft of the soft palate (the back of the palate) or a cleft of the hard and soft palate. A child can also have a cleft of only the muscle in the back of the palate, with the lining tissue of the mouth intact. Cleft palates can be associated with cleft lip and/or cleft alveolus (the bone where the teeth come in). The type and extent of the cleft palate and related abnormalities determine the extent of surgery and therapy a chid with cleft palate will need.

How do I feed my baby with cleft palate?

It is very difficulty to breastfeed a child with a cleft palate. This is because the child is not able to create suction with the tongue, due to the hole in the top of the mouth. There are special nipples created to deliver formula or pumped milk to a baby with cleft palate. Feeding a baby with cleft palate takes time and patience. With the help of our speech therapists, babies with cleft palate can feed and grow successfully.

Why is a cleft palate repaired?

Because a cleft palate is a hole in the roof of the mouth leading to the nose, food eaten by a child with cleft palate will come out the nose.

More importantly, the palate is used for production of speech sounds. With a cleft palate, air will escape out of the nose when a child is talking, and the child will not develop normal speech patterns.

When is a cleft palate repaired?

Depending on the size and extent of a cleft palate, it is repaired in one or two stages, starting between 8 and 12 months. The procedures require general anesthesia and typically one night stay in the hospital.

At the time of cleft palate repair, a baby must be no longer using a bottle and have transitioned to open cup and spoon. Using a nipple after palate repair can damage the repaired area and cause it to open. Our speech therapists can assist parents in making this transition in time for surgical repair.

Our schedulers will assist in scheduling appointments and surgery, as well as provide information about post-operative care. This information can also be found in the post-op instructions area of the website.