A cleft lip is an opening in the lip. A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. Clefts happen because of incomplete development of the lip or palate while the baby is forming before birth.
Clefts are among the most common problems found in newborn babies. Annually, in the US over 5,000 newborns or about 1 in 700 are born with a cleft.
While many possible causes are being investigated through research, no single cause of cleft lip and/or palate has been identified.
A cleft lip and/or palate usually can be corrected through surgery. Treatment typically begins within the first few months of life, but exact timing will be determined by the surgeon.
The Cleft Palate Foundation (CPF) has a number of publications for parents of children with clefts, including booklets on feeding an infant with a cleft, on the child's development from birth to four years, on the school age years, on genetics, and other aspects of cleft lip and palate. For more information, contact the CPF at 1-800-24-CLEFT, or visit their website at www.cleftline.org.