Cleft Palate Surgical Repair

Cleft palate is a separation in the roof of the mouth that occurs when it fails to join, or fuse, as a child is developing before birth. Surgery to correct a cleft palate is usually done between 9 months and 2 years of age, and may require several stages of repair.

Possible long-term problems include speech problems, crooked teeth, frequent head colds and frequent ear infections.

Because of the cleft palate, babies are unable to suck or nurse effectively. Your baby will require special feeding techniques and/or special bottles and cups. Resources are available by calling the Plastic Surgery Office, 513-636-7181, or the Craniofacial Team, 513-636-4539.

Repair of cleft palate (palatoplasty) may be performed between 9 months and 2 years of age. Palate repair may require several stages of repair.

In preparation for the palate repair the infant must be off a bottle and pacifier and drinking from a cup only before the surgery is scheduled. You may need to wean your baby off of a bottle as early as 6 months of age.

You will need to protect your child’s palate from injury while it is healing. It is hard to tell how much feeling your child has in the repaired palate. The tissue may be numb and without feeling for a period of time after surgery. If this is the case, it is possible for your child to injure the roof of his/her mouth without feeling any pain. You may treat your child as any other child but you must watch him closely to keep objects out of the mouth.

Your baby will have elbow restraints for one to two weeks after surgery (physician dependent) to keep hands away from the surgical site. Remove the restraints to exercise the arms. Remove one restraint at a time, on a rotating basis, every hour or so to exercise and massage the arms. Make sure to watch your child closely when the elbow restraint is off. 

  • You may feed your child formula from a cup only after the operation.
  • Baby food should be mixed with fluid in a cup so it is able to be poured. For the first week, do not use a spoon to feed your child. After one week, you may then feed with a spoon.
  • Make sure food is not too hot.
  • Provide fluids from a cup only and do not use straws.
  • After the meal, give your child water to help keep the mouth clean of food.
  • The child refuses to eat or has a decrease in wet diapers 
  • The child has a fever over 101
  • You have additional issues and would like to speak to a physician

Last Updated 07/2014