Way to Grow Header

Cleft Palate Repair

(757) 668-7000

A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth or the palate. The cleft may involve either side of the palate. It can extend from the front of the mouth (hard palate) to the throat (soft palate). Often the cleft will include the lip too. Surgery can be done to repair this opening from the time your child is about 3 months - 18 months of age. Some repairs can be made as early as the first few days of life.

The goal of cleft palate surgery is to close the cleft so that the palate can work normally during eating/drinking and can give enough length and movement to the palate so speech is normal.

After Surgery

  • Your child will have an IV after surgery until he/she is able to drink well by mouth.
  • Your child will have stitches (sutures) on the palate where the cleft was repaired. The stitches will dissolve after a couple of days. These do not have to be taken out by the doctor. In some cases, packing will be placed on the palate. Do not take the packing out unless you are told to do so by your child’s doctor. Your child may have restraints on his/her arms to keep from pulling at the packing and stitches, but it still allows some movement.
  • There may be some bloody drainage coming from the nose and mouth that will lessen over the first day.
  • There will be some swelling at the surgery site, which will lessen in about a week.
  • For 4-6 days, your child will feel some soreness that can be relieved by a non-aspirin pain medicine. A prescription medicine may also be given for home use.
  • Many infants show signs of nasal congestion after surgery. These signs may include nasal snorting, mouth breathing, and decreased appetite. Your child’s doctor may prescribe medicine which helps to relieve the nasal congestion. You may also use normal saline drops in the nose. (See Way To Grow for Salt Water Nasal Spray)
  • Your child will be on medicine to prevent an infection while in the hospital. Your child’s doctor may want you to continue this at home.
  • Your child will be in the hospital 2-3 days.
  • Water should be offered after every bottle or meal to cleanse the incision. You can continue to rinse this area gently with water several times a day if necessary.


  • Your child can be offered the syringe and 10 French feeding tube after surgery.
  • Your child should have small amounts of clear liquids to drink in the PACU.
  • Your child should be placed on a soft diet for 7-10 days after surgery. Soft foods include mashed potatoes, noodles, yogurt, baby food, soup, etc.
  • Your child should not use a straw because it could damage the cleft repair.
  • Your child should not use a pacifier, cleft palate nursers or breast feed.
  • Patient with lip repairs should follow the diet guidelines above for 1 week after surgery. Palate repair should follow these guidelines for 3 weeks after surgery.


Your child can walk or play calmly after surgery. He/she should not run or do any rough play (wrestling, climbing) for a while after surgery. Your child’s doctor will tell you when he/she can return to regular play.

When to call your child's doctor:

  • Your child's temperature is above 101.40°F.
  • You see blood coming from the mouth or nose.
  • Your child is not eating.

Helpful Information

  • Your child may have a non-aspirin pain reliever, if needed.
  • Slightly elevating the head of your child’s bed may help to decrease the swelling.
  • 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