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Cleft lip and palate repair - discharge

Orofacial cleft - discharge; Craniofacial birth defect repair - discharge; Cheiloplasty - discharge; Cleft rhinoplasty - discharge; Palatoplasty - discharge; Tip rhinoplasty - discharge

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When Your Child was in the Hospital

Your child had surgery to repair birth defects that caused a cleft in which the lip or the roof of the mouth did not grow together normally while your child was in the womb. Your child had general anesthesia (asleep and not feeling pain) for the surgery.

What to Expect at Home

After anesthesia, it is normal for children to have stuffy noses. They may need to breathe through their mouths for the first week. There will be some drainage from their mouths and noses. The drainage should go away after about 1 week.

Incision Care

Clean the incision (surgery wound) after feeding your child.

Some stitches will break apart or go away on their own. The provider will need to take others out at the first follow-up visit. Do not remove your child's stitches yourself.

You will need to protect your child's incision.


Young infants should be eating only breast milk or formula. When feeding, hold your infant in an upright position.

Use a cup or the side of a spoon for giving your child drinks. If you use a bottle, use only the kind of bottle and nipple that your doctor has recommended.

Older infants or young children will need to have their food softened or pureed for some time after surgery so it is easy to swallow. Use a blender or food processor to prepare food for your child.

Children who are eating foods other than breast milk or formula should be sitting when they eat. Feed them only with a spoon. Do not use forks, straws, chopsticks, or other utensils that can harm their incisions.

There are many good food choices for your child after surgery. Always make sure the food is cooked until it is soft, then pureed. Good food options include:

Foods your child should not eat include:


Your child may play quietly. Avoid running and jumping until the provider says it is OK.

Your child may go home with arm cuffs or splints. These will keep your baby from rubbing or scratching the incision. Your child will need to wear the cuffs most of the time for about 2 weeks. Put on the cuffs over a long-sleeve shirt. Tape them to the shirt to keep them in place if needed.

Ask your provider when it is safe to go swimming. Children may have ear tubes and, if so, you will need to keep water out of their ears.

Follow-up Care

Your provider will refer your child to a speech therapist. The provider may also make a referral to a dietician. Most times, speech therapy lasts 2 months. You will be told when to make a follow-up appointment.

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your provider if:

Related Information

Cleft lip and palate repair
Cleft lip and palate


Costello BJ, Ruiz RL. Comprehensive management of facial clefts. In: Fonseca RJ, ed. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2018:chap 28.

Shaye D, Liu CC, Tollefson TT. Cleft lip and palate: an evidence-based review. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2015;23(3):357-372. PMID: 26208773

Wang TD, Milczuk HA. Cleft lip and palate. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 188.


Review Date: 4/19/2022  

Reviewed By: Tang Ho, MD, Associate Professor, Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Houston, TX. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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