Babies diagnosed with cleft lip and palate can lead happy, healthy lives with proper care and early intervention. We believe that being informed about the needs of children with clefting conditions will help you prepare for the birth of your baby. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to prepare you for your pre-natal visit.

What will my baby have? 

Ultrasound examinations have limitations. A baby’s cleft lip can often be identified, as well as the gum. It is unusual for a cleft palate to be seen. Specific information about the baby’s surgical plan will have to wait until after birth.

Bottles for children with cleftWhat can I expect at my first consultation?

During your first pre-natal visit, you will meet with the plastic and reconstructive surgeon and a nurse from the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Institute. They will provide a treatment plan overview, review the timeline for surgery and explain the concept of team care. This will be your best opportunity to meet and ask questions of the surgeon and nurse who will be caring for your child. The special feeding needs of the baby with a cleft will be discussed and specialty feeding bottles will be demonstrated. One bottle will be sent home with you.

Who should come to this pre-natal visit?

We encourage both parents to attend and to bring along any family member they wish.

What should I bring with me?

Please bring copies of your ultrasound photos and the ultrasound report. Copies of your pre-natal records would also be helpful.

What do we do once the baby is born?

You will get some contacts to call once you have delivered. We will contact the nursery if your baby is still in the hospital. We like to see babies within the first week after birth if the mother and family are able to travel, to individualize the treatment plan and to reevaluate the feedings.

When will my baby have surgery?

Cleft lip repairs are usually performed between six weeks and three months of age. If a second lip repair is needed, the second operation is done approximately six months after the first surgery. Cleft palates are repaired between 12 and 14 months of age, following the first formal team visit at 11 months. Special timing adjustments are made for premature infants or infants with other medical needs.

If I meet the surgeon and nurse at my first visit, when do I see the full team?

The cleft palate team includes specialists from plastic surgery, pediatrics, otolaryngology, nursing, pediatric dentistry, audiology, speech therapy, social services and child psychology. In addition to these disciplines, ophthalmology and neurosurgery participate when there are more extensive needs. Typically, you will meet the entire team at 11 months. The child is evaluated yearly until age four, then every one to two years as needed.

Can I deliver at my local hospital or do I have to deliver closer to Children’s Hospital?

We encourage you to discuss this with your obstetrician. The decision will depend on the expected condition of the baby and the resources at the hospital closer to home.