Children with cleft lip with or without cleft palate face a variety of challenges, depending on the type and severity of the cleft.

  • Difficulty feeding your baby. One of the most immediate concerns after birth is feeding. While most babies with cleft lip can breast-feed, a cleft palate can make sucking difficult or cause gagging or breast milk to come out through the nose. Your health care team will discuss feeding strategies with you, such as using a special bottle nipple.
  • Ear infections and hearing loss. Babies with cleft palate are especially susceptible to middle ear infections. Over time, repeated ear infections increase the risk of hearing loss. Your doctor may refer you to an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat doctor who may suggest regular visits to evaluate your child's hearing. Most children with clefts have tubes surgically inserted in their ears to drain fluids and help prevent infections.
  • Dental problems. If the cleft extends through the upper gum, tooth development will likely be affected. Ask your doctor whether your child should see a pediatric dentist who can monitor tooth development and oral health from an early age.
  • Speech difficulties. Because the palate is used in forming sounds, the development of normal speech can be affected by a cleft palate. Your doctor may refer you to a speech pathologist who can evaluate your child and provide speech therapy.
  • Challenges of coping with a medical condition. Children with clefts may face social, emotional and behavioral problems due to differences in appearance and the stress of intensive medical care. A psychologist and a social worker can help you and your child find ways to cope with the stresses your family encounters.
Jan. 27, 2015

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