In the early weeks of development, long before a child is born, the right and left sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth normally grow together. Occasionally, however, in about one of every 800 babies, those sections don’t quite meet. 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 the palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or variations of both.
If your child was born with either or both of these conditions, your doctor will probably recommend surgery to repair it. 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.
This information will give you a basic understanding of the operation — when it can help, how it’s performed, and what results you can expect. It can’t answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on you individual circumstances. Please be sure to ask your surgeon if there is anything you don’t understand about the procedure.