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Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Having a baby is a tremendous event, and when the excitement of new life is met with the stress of discovering that your baby has a birth defect, the experience can be emotionally demanding for the entire family.

Every year, approximately 8,000 babies are born in the United States with an orofacial cleft, making it one of the most common birth defects seen. The cause in most cases is unknown, but felt to be due to a combination of both genetic and environmental factors early in pregnancy.

Today many clefts are diagnosed by ultrasound prior to birth, allowing families to welcome their babies more prepared for the additional challenges the cleft brings. It is also possible that the cleft will be diagnosed at the time of birth, or in some cases (such as a submucous cleft palate), later in life.

Early interventions to assist with feeding are essential. For isolated cleft lips, successful breast-feeding is a possibility, but if the palate is involved, the ability for your infant to create adequate suction is compromised. Most infants benefit from using a specially designed Haberman Feeder. Additional teaching from feeding and lactation specialists can ensure the best experience.

Surgical reconstruction to repair the cleft generally starts in the first few months of life. The procedures continue as your child grows and reaches maturity, addressing feeding and speech issues, hearing and ear health, dentition, nasal breathing problems, and of course, providing a beautiful smile!

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