Way to Grow Header

Cleft Lip Repair

(757) 668-7000

A cleft lip is an opening in the upper lip between the mouth and the nose. It may involve either side of the lip or the entire lip. The opening is normally present while the baby is developing but in most cases it closes before birth. Surgery can be done to close this opening. This is most often done by the time the baby is three months old. Some repairs can be done in the baby's first days of life.

Types of Cleft Lip

There are different names given to the cleft lip according to its location and how much of the lip is involved.

A cleft on one side of the lip is called unilateral. A cleft on both sides of the lip is called bilateral. A cleft that extends to and involves the nose is called complete.

After surgery

  • Your child will have an IV until he/she is able to drink by mouth. For a day or two, your child will feel some soreness, which can be relieved with a non-aspirin pain medicine. A prescription medicine may also be given for use at home.
  • Your child's upper lip and nose will have stitches (sutures) where the cleft lip was repaired. It is normal to have swelling, bruising, and blood around these stitches.
  • Your child must not rub these stitches since this could cause them to become infected or break loose. Your child may have restraints on his/her arms and hands to keep from pulling or rubbing the stitches but still allows some movement. Your child will be on medicine to prevent infection while in the hospital. Your child’s doctor may also want him/her to take the medicine at home.
  • In most cases, your child will remain in the hospital for only 1 night.
  • Your child’s doctor will use stitches in surgery that dissolve within 7 to 10 days of the surgery. Your child’s doctor may also use a topical skin glue called Dermabond™ that will help hold the incision edges together. Your child’s doctor will still want to see your child within one –two weeks of surgery at his office.


Your child may be offered the syringe and 10 French feeding system for one week. Do not breast feed or use a cleft lip nurser or pacifier for 1 week after surgery. Your child should have small amounts to drink at first to make sure his/her stomach can handle it. Slowly increase feedings as tolerated.


There are no activity restrictions after surgery. Rough play is restricted for older children. Check with your child’s doctor if you have any questions.

When to call your child's doctor:

  • If your child's temperature is above 101.4°F.
  • A small amount of clear or blood-tinged oozing is expected. Apply gentle pressure to the site. If bleeding continues, call your child’s doctor.
  • If there is any yellow, green or foul smelling drainage at the site.

Helpful Information

  • If the topical skin glue, Dermabond™, is not used during surgery, you will need to cleanse the incision three times a day with 1/2 strength hydrogen peroxide and a Q-tip until your child sees his/her doctor at his office. Your child’s doctor may prescribe an ointment to be applied to the incision after discharge from the hospital. It is very important that the incision is cleaned well on a daily basis.
  • Incisions with the topical skin glue, Dermabond™, must be kept dry. Avoid the use of ointments. Do not clean the incision with hydrogen peroxide. The skin glue will peel off in 7-10 days.
  • It is normal for the surgical scar to appear to get bigger and redder for a few weeks after surgery. After about 6 weeks, the scar will mature and over the next 4 months will soften and lose the redness.
  • Your child may have a non-aspirin pain reliever if needed.
  • Your child will need to see his/her doctor for a follow-up appointment on __________________.

Children's Craniofacial Program (757) 668-7031

Children's Plastic Surgery (757) 668-7713

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 07/2008

(757) 668-7000