Cleft lips and cleft palates are one of the most common, major birth defects, occurring in about one or two of every 1,000 infants born in the United States each year. An Orofacial cleft occurs when parts of the lip or palate does not completely fuse together during the first three months of pregnancy.
A cleft lip may appear as a small notch in the edge of the lip only — extending into the nose, or it may also extend into the gums. A cleft palate may also vary in size, from a defect of the soft palate only, to a complete cleft that extends through the hard palate. Because the lips and the palate develop separately, it is possible for a child to be born with a cleft lip only, cleft palate only, or both.
A cleft lip may be detected through a prenatal ultrasound; however, diagnosing a cleft palate is more difficult and it may not be seen. The diagnosis and extent of cleft lip and palate is confirmed by physical examination after the birth of the child.
Can usually breast feed or use a regular bottle.
Breast feeding is not possible. Infants cannot create suction needed to draw milk out of the breast, or regular nipples on bottles. Even a small cleft will prevent proper suction needed. Families will need bottles and nipples designed for a cleft palate. Help is available for mothers who plan to breastfeed to begin pumping and arrange for a pump rental.