In the early weeks of development, long before a child is born, the right and left sides of the top lip and the roof of the mouth normally grow together. Occasionally, however, in about 1 of every 800 babies, the 2 sections don't quite meet. At The Plastic Surgery Group, our staff includes distinguished pediatric plastic and craniofacial surgeons who have extensive training and experience in cleft lip repair for our Albany patients. We also serve the entire Tri-State area of New York, Vermont and Massachusetts.
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Meet the expertly trained Albany plastic
surgeons at The Plastic Surgery Group,
serving the Schenectady, Saratoga Springs,
Utica, and Albany area of New York.
Meet the expertly trained Albany plastic surgeons at The Plastic Surgery Group, serving the Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Utica, and Albany area of New York.Learn More Request Your Consultation
A child born with a separation in the upper lip is said to have a cleft lip. A similar birth defect in the roof of the mouth, or palate, is called a cleft palate. Since the lip and palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or variations of both. A cleft lip can range in severity from a slight notch in the red part of the upper lip to a complete separation of the lip extending into the nose. Clefts can occur on one or both sides of the upper lip.
If your child was born with either or both of these conditions, your doctor will recommend surgery to repair it. Surgery is generally performed when the child is at least 10 weeks of age. Medical professionals have made great advances in treating children with clefts and can do a lot to help your child lead a normal, healthy, happy life.
Elbow immobilizers may be necessary for a few weeks to prevent your baby from rubbing the repaired area. Most stitches will either dissolve or be removed within 5 days. Your doctor will advise you on how to feed your child during the first few weeks after surgery.
It's normal for the surgical scar to appear to get bigger and redder for a few weeks after surgery. Over time the scar will gradually fade, but will never totally disappear. In many children, however, it's barely noticeable because of the shadows formed by the nose and upper lip.
You'll want to discuss further needs with the member of the Cleft Team seeing your child. Additional surgery may be recommended by your plastic surgeon when your child is older to refine the shape and function of the lip, nose, gums, and palate.
Perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that surgery to repair a cleft lip is only the beginning of the process. It is critical to give your child support and compassion to help him or her build self-esteem that extends past the physical defect.