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When Is the Right Time for Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery?

You may find out through ultrasound that your baby will be born with a cleft lip, cleft palate, or both, or you may not know until your baby arrives. Regardless, having a baby with this condition can seem overwhelming, as simple actions like feeding your baby may seem complicated. 

You may also be concerned about how your baby will be received by others and how a cleft lip or palate can affect your child’s long-term social and physical development.

Both cleft lip and cleft palate can usually be corrected with surgery. At the Southern California Center for Surgical Arts, plastic surgeon Husam Elias, MD, DMD, FACS has expertise in oral and facial surgeries and is uniquely qualified to take on your child’s case. 

Here’s what he recommends when it comes to the timing of surgery.

Cleft lip repair

When your baby has a gap in their lip, it’s known as a cleft lip. This gap may be on one or both sides of the upper lip. Sometimes, the cleft reaches all the way up to the nose and the baby also has a gap in the upper gum.

Usually, repair for a cleft lip happens when your child is between the ages of 3 and 6 months. You personally may be ready to have the surgery done as soon as possible, but Dr. Elias considers what’s right for your individual child when setting your baby’s procedure date.

Cleft palate repair

A cleft palate describes a gap in the roof of the mouth that connects to the nose. Usually, this surgery is performed when your child is between 9 and 14 months of age. If your child also has a separation in the gum line, this part of the repair is done when a child is between 8 and 10 years old.

No one-size-fits-all prescription

Your child’s cleft lip or cleft palate surgery may be scheduled sooner or later than the above timelines. Dr. Elias recommends surgery when he knows your baby is healthy enough to withstand the procedure. He wants to ensure that the defect doesn’t limit your child’s growth and development any longer than necessary.

And even if your child does undergo surgery as a baby, they may need additional surgeries later. Dr. Elias can provide long-term care for your child and assess them as they continue to grow.

Your first appointment

You should make an appointment with our office within one week after first leaving the hospital, or as soon as possible, so Dr. Elias can evaluate your child. He can also help you initially ensure that your baby is feeding and thriving. The cleft defect can make it hard for a baby to suck robustly, and they may need a special bottle for feeding.

At Southern California Center for Surgical Arts, we understand how difficult it is to see your child struggling and are honored to be in a place to support change in their life and yours. Call our office in Sherman Oaks, California, today if you’re expecting a child with a cleft palate or lip or if your child has been born with one or both issues. 

We also accept appointments made using this website. We have the expertise and compassion to help your child overcome cleft lip and/or palate and live a healthy, fully functional life.

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