At your first visit with the plastic surgeon, he will discuss with you the details of cleft lip or palate surgery, including risks, complications, recovery time and outcome. At this time, your child’s surgeon will answer any questions you may have.

Cleft Lip Surgery

After the surgery for cleft lip, your child may be irritable. Your child’s physician will prescribe medications to help with this. Your child will wear padded restraints on his/her elbows to prevent him/her from rubbing at the stitches and surgery site.

Stitches will either dissolve on their own or will be removed in approximately five to seven days. Specific instructions will be given to you regarding how to feed your child after the surgery. The scar will gradually fade, but it will never completely disappear. Surgeries are designed to attempt to hide scars in natural ridges and shadows so that they are less noticeable.

Your child will have an intravenous catheter (IV) to provide fluids until he/she is able to drink by mouth.

Your child’s upper lip and nose will have stitches where the cleft lip was repaired. It is normal to have swelling, bruising, and blood around these stitches.

Cleft Palate Surgery

The surgery for cleft palate is usually more involved and can cause more discomfort and pain for the child than cleft lip surgery. Your child’s physician will order pain medicine to help with this. As a result of the pain and the location of the surgery, your child may not eat and drink as usual. An intravenous (IV) catheter will be used to help give your child fluids until he/she can drink adequately.

Your child will have stitches on the palate where the cleft was repaired. The stitches will dissolve after several weeks and they do not have to be taken out by the physician.

  • There may be some bloody drainage coming from the nose and mouth that will lessen over the first day.
  • There will be some swelling at the surgery site, which will diminish substantially in a week.
  • Your child may be in the hospital for one to three days, depending on your child’s physician’s recommendation.
  • A small amount of water should be offered after every liquid meal to cleanse the incision. You can continue to rinse this area gently with water several times a day, if necessary.

Diet After Surgery

Your child will be placed on a blenderized diet for two weeks after surgery. For older infants and children, age-appropriate soft foods may include strained baby foods, melted popsicles, yogurt and runny mashed potatoes. Note: your child should not use a straw, bottle or pacifier, as they could damage the surgical repair.

Follow-up with your child’s surgeon and the cleft team is very important. This will be discussed with you. Your child’s physician will also be an important part of the child’s overall health management after the surgery.