Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth. This happen when the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth and upper lip don't join before birth. The problem can range from a small notch in the lip to a groove that runs into the roof of the mouth and nose. This can affect the way the child's face looks. It can also lead to problems with eating, talking and ear infections. A cleft is a fissure or opening—a gap. It is the non- fusion of the body's natural structures that form before birth.
Sometimes the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that extends into the nasal cavity. The cleft may include either side of the cavity. The abnormality may be associated with cleft lip or other syndromes.
Incomplete formation of lips during foetal development leads to Cleft Lip abnormality. The extent varies from mild to severe. The clefts can be distinguished into unilateral clefts and bilateral clefts.
The exact cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is not completely understood. Cleft lip and/or cleft palate are caused by multiple genes inherited from both parents, as well as environmental factors that scientists have not yet fully understood.
Multifactorial inheritance is the type of hereditary pattern seen when there is more than one genetic factor involved and sometimes, when there are also environmental factors participating in the causation of a condition.
As genes are involved, the chance for a cleft lip and/or cleft palate to happen again in a family is increased, depending on how many people in the family have a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. If parents without clefts have a baby with a cleft, the chance for them to have another baby with a cleft ranges from 2 to 8 percent. If a parent has a cleft, but no their children are without cleft, the chance to have another baby with a cleft is 4 to 6 percent. If a parent and a child have a cleft, the chance is even greater for a future child to be born with a cleft. Genetic consultation is suggested.
The most immediate concern for a baby with cleft palate is good nutrition. Sucking for children with a cleft palate is difficult because of the poorly formed roof of the mouth. Children with just a cleft lip (without a cleft palate) do not routinely have feeding difficulties. The following are suggestions to help aid in the feeding of your infant:
The cleft abnormalities can be managed and corrected via a team approach. This team must comprise plastic/craniofacial surgeon, paediatrician, orthodontist, paediatric dentist, speech and language specialist, Otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat specialist), audiologist (hearing specialist), genetic counsellor, nurse team coordinator and social worker.