Cleft lip and cleft palate occur early in pregnancy while the baby is developing.  A cleft lip is a separation of the two sides of the upper lip.  It can often extend beyond the base of the nose and includes the upper jaw and/or the upper gum.  Cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth.  It can involve the hard palate and/or the soft palate. The lip and the palate develop separately, so it is possible to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both malformations.

Cleft lip surgery is performed under general anesthesia.  The procedure closes the separation, restores muscle function, and provides a normal shape to the mouth.  The lip and nose are repaired at the same time.

Cleft palate surgery closes the gap in the roof of the mouth, reconnects the muscles that make the palate work, and if needed, makes the repaired palate long enough so that it can properly function.

Children born with these conditions typically need the skills of several professionals to manage the problems associated with the defect, such as feeding, speech, hearing and psychological development. After the lip and palate are repaired, the child may need other surgical and nonsurgical procedures, such as additional lip and nose repair, cleft palate and ear tubes, speech therapy, and secondary palate surgery to correct speech problems.