What should I expect during my child's cleft lip and cleft palate repair recovery?
After surgery, bandages may be placed on incisions outside your child's mouth. You will be given speciﬁc home care instructions that may include:
- How to care for the surgical site following surgery
- Medications to apply or take orally to decrease pain, aid healing and reduce the risk of infection
- Specific feeding instructions to help protect the surgical site during healing
- Feeding or activity restrictions necessary to promote normal healing
- Speciﬁc issues to monitor in the general health of your child
- When to follow-up with your plastic surgeon
Dietary restrictions are common after cleft palate repair with liquid or puree diets recommended for several days. Some surgeons also recommend avoiding bottles, pacifiers, straws or other utensils as well for several days. Commonly, arm restraints are used after surgery to help prevent your child from touching or injuring the surgical site as it heals. Some surgeons allow these restraints to be removed temporarily, so long as your child is supervised and prevented from touching the surgical site or sucking their fingers.
Your child's discomfort can be controlled with pain medication. Depending on the surgical technique used, sutures may need to be removed from the lip following surgery. Healing will continue for several weeks as swelling resolves. Lip scars will mature and fade over many months. After surgery, diligent sun protection is essential to prevent the formation of irregular scars.
Results and outlook
The outcome of cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair will improve your child's quality of life, including the ability to breathe, eat and speak. Secondary procedures on the lip or palate may, however, be needed for functional reasons or to reﬁne appearance. Even though the scars of a cleft lip repair are generally located within the normal contours of the face, they will always be present.