Cleft lip and Cleft palates are among the most common birth defects. While the fetus is developing in the mother’s womb, the lip and palate fuse together. If they do not fuse together, it results in this deformity, which can be minor or severe and may even affect the entire palate and/or nose.
Of all babies who are born with this defect, a third have only a cleft
lip, another third have only cleft palates, and the remaining third have
cleft palate with a cleft lip.
Babies with cleft palates are at higher risk of developing an ear and respiratory infection.
What is Cleft Lip?
A cleft lip is an opening between the two sides of the upper lip as shown.
What is a Cleft Palate?
A cleft palate is an opening between the two sides of the palate as shown.
This picture is of a cleft lip and cleft palate combination.
Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment
Repair of cleft-lip
Can be done 48 hours after the baby is born.
Repair of cleft palate
Cleft palate surgery is usually done within the first or second year of the baby’s life. This allows a period of time in which the baby’s mouth can mature, but cleft palate plastic surgery should be done before the baby starts talking.
The Impact on Breastfeeding
During breastfeeding, the lip and palate help create suction that is necessary to pull the milk from the breast. If the lip and palate are not formed properly, the suction is insufficient, and in some cases, it can be nearly impossible to breastfeed.
A cleft palate can cause milk to flow into the nasal passages, which may cause choking while the baby is feeding.
Babies with only a cleft lip may have a better chance at breastfeeding. The mother can sometimes close the hole to make a seal with her hands, while her baby is breastfeeding.
• Upright breastfeeding positions can help keep the milk from running into the baby’s nose.
• Mom may need to support her baby’s jaw and chin while latching and keeping a position at the breast.
Using a Palatal Obturator: This is an appliance that fits into the baby’s
mouth to give shape to the palate. The Obturator can help the baby suck
stronger and provides firm pressure on the breast. The mother should request
that the Obturator be made of a smooth surface, as not to hurt her while
Breast Feeding Cleft Palate / Lip Babies – Other Tips
Tracy Behr, CBC. CLD (CBI) Reference:
Breastfeeding counselor course through Child Birth International on
the physiology of breastfeeding, health of the baby, a baby with cleft lip/palate problems and breastfeeding.