Banner Health
Making healthcare easier

Cleft Lip and Palate

Cleft lip and palate are the most common craniofacial abnormalities and are very treatable. Our team of kid-connected experts is ready to answer any questions about these conditions while providing specialized care and support throughout your child’s diagnosis and treatment.

What Is Cleft Lip and Palate?

A cleft lip is a separation in the upper lip and a cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth. Babies can experience cleft lip, cleft lip with palate or cleft palate. A facial cleft forms when the two sides of the lip or palate do not come together.

Cleft lip or cleft palate can occur during the 5th to 9th week of development in the womb and are identified in utero or immediately after birth.

Testing and Diagnosis for Cleft Lip and Palate

Many children with cleft lips are diagnosed before they are born. At 14 weeks of pregnancy, an ultrasound can detect a cleft lip, but a cleft palate is harder to identify. Receiving this diagnosis before you’ve even met your baby can be difficult, but you can count on the experts at Banner Children’s to be there every step of the way providing guidance and treatment options.

Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment

A cleft palate, or cleft palate with a cleft lip, can make feeding difficult for your baby, as it prevents them from sucking. Early treatment for cleft lip and palate is important to ensure your baby is hitting those important growth milestones related to weight gain, hearing and speech. Additionally, early treatment can help reduce facial abnormalities.

Feeding Treatments

We understand how important the feeding experience is to not only your baby's growth but also for your bonding. Banner Children’s offers a lactation  and feeding specialist to work with you after your baby is born, teaching you breast and bottle techniques to ensure your baby can feed effectively. We will partner with you to develop a plan that works best for you and baby.

Hearing Assessments

Ears and hearing may also be impacted when it comes to cleft lip and palate. Most children with cleft palate have problems with fluid building up behind the eardrum and it may not show up on the initial hearing screening. Our team will help evaluate your child with hearing assessments to monitor for hearing problems and address any conditions they may have.


The most common treatment option for cleft lip and palate is surgery on the affected area. Most children require 1 to 2 surgeries depending on the severity of the cleft.  At Banner Children’s, we work diligently to provide you and your family with a clear understanding of the process and what to expect during and after your surgery experience.


Cleft lip surgery can be performed on babies as young as 3 to 6 months old. Cleft palate surgery can be performed when your baby is 10 to 12 months old in anticipation of speech and language development, or prior to your baby learning many words. When your baby is 18 to 24 months old, our speech pathologists will begin evaluating their developing speech abilities to determine if further treatment is needed.


As your child grows into their adolescent years, they may require additional surgeries to ensure their oral and nasal development stays on track. If needed, nasal repair surgery can be performed when your child is between 4 to 6 years old. A gum line bone graft may be considered for children 7 to 11 years old if needed to ensure teeth are growing properly. Your pediatric specialist will work with you to develop a care plan specific to your child's needs and abilities.

Teenage Years

If your child has developed misalignment of the teeth or jaw, the Le Fort I Osteotomy procedure may be done to reposition the upper jaw for optimal position during the teenage years. This procedure separates the upper jaw from other bones in the face so teeth can be moved into proper alignment.

After all the major work is done, there will typically be a 6-month check-up with your pediatrician and pediatric surgeon. After the 6-month check-up, check-ups can be spread out by 1 to 2 years. Close and consistent monitoring is important to make sure your child is on track.

Children with cleft lip and palate can expect expert care from our team from infancy through adulthood.