Cleft Lip and Palate

Post –operative care

After a child has had surgery to close a cleft lip and/or palate, his or her parents may be concerned about how to look after him or her properly. During the child’s recovery a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) will be in close contact with the family and will be there to answer any questions or concerns (See ’Pre-operative care and surgery’). In most cases children who have a cleft lip and or palate closure are able to leave hospital and go home after a day or two. Immediately following a lip closure parents may need time to adjust to the new look of their baby’s face and smile and they may realise that they miss the cleft. After a cleft palate has been closed surgically the baby’s cry may sound different – this may be because of the swelling and closing the gap to the nose. However it may also be because the gap in the palate has been closed and therefore will be a permanent change.

Some children may display signs of discomfort in the days following surgery and parents are advised to give their child pain relief including ibuprofen and paracetomol. Parents can also be involved in the longer-term healing process, for example some cleft teams advise parents to massage the closure wound on the lip with special cream to reduce the amount of scar tissue. 
In rare cases cleft services splint or restrict the movement of the baby’s arms after a cleft lip closure operation to stop the baby from touching the scar or mouth. This can sometimes attract unwarranted attention from members of the public. 
Very soon after a cleft palate closure parents are advised to feed their baby while she or he is still recovering from surgery. The baby is likely to be hungry because they will have been starved for a period before the surgery. 

Parents will also be asked to make sure that the child drinks a lot of fluid in this period (see ’Feeding a baby born with a cleft’). 
Last reviewed June 2017.

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