How is a cleft palate diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose a cleft palate by doing a physical exam of the baby's mouth shortly after birth.
Fetal ultrasound can sometimes find cleft palate as early as 14 to 16 weeks into pregnancy, especially if the cleft palate is severe and occurs along with a cleft lip. But ultrasound doesn't always find the problem, so doctors can't always rely on it to diagnose a cleft palate.
How is it treated?
Treatment involves a team of health care providers. The type of treatment depends on how severe the problem is.
Surgery is the most common treatment for a cleft palate. For the most part, it's done before a child is 12 months old.1 Before surgery, your baby may need treatment for breathing or feeding problems. He or she may also wear a mouth support (such as a dental splint) or a soft dental molding insert along with medical adhesive tape.
As your child grows, he or she will probably need more than one operation. But the problem is normally fixed by the time a child is a teen. Although surgery often leaves scars, the palate usually heals well and leaves few signs of the cleft. A child's facial bones most often grow normally, and the child speaks more clearly.
Some children who have a cleft palate need more treatment for other problems, such as speech, hearing, or teeth problems; sinus and ear infections; and problems from surgery.
What can you do at home to help your child and yourself?
If your baby is born with a cleft palate, get help with feeding. A nurse can guide you on feeding techniques. Watch for infections and hearing or teeth problems too.
As your child grows, pay special attention to dental care, hearing, and speech. You can also support your child's self-esteem. Explain how a cleft palate forms and how having one has been a part of making your child strong.
Caring for a child who has a cleft palate can take a lot of time and patience. Seek support from friends and family. You can join a support group to meet others who are going through similar challenges.