Initial cleft palate repair surgery is performed anywhere from 6 to 15 months of age and is decided by the surgeon based on the child’s needs.

Children with a cleft palate may require more than one surgery to repair their palate. The initial surgery is completed by a plastic surgeon and aims to close the palate and create a barrier in the roof off the mouth separating the mouth from the nasal cavity. This enables eating without food coming out of the nose (nasal regurgitation), clear speech and allows for the development of sucking and drinking.

Cleft palate repair surgery includes repair of a cleft in the soft or hard palate, or the submucosa, and often the uvula.

Anatomy of a palate

Other types of surgeries can include Pharyngoplasty, Alveolar Bone Graft and Buccal flap repair. These are generally done when and if your child requires them.

After cleft palate repair your child should not suck during feeding nor should they be permitted to place anything inside of their mouth for up to 6 weeks, depending on the surgeon’s instructions. Most plastic surgeons suggest the baby becomes accustomed to an alternative method of feeding as they are not permitted to use a teat after surgery. The method varies from hospital to hospital, and surgeon to surgeon. It is best to discuss feeding options with your surgeon or speech pathologist a few weeks before your surgery. The following feeding equipment is recommended both before and after cleft palate surgery:

CleftPALS Qld Spout Attachment has been produced by CleftPALS Qld to replace the Nuk feeding spout which is no longer available. It has been specially designed to fit securely to the top of the squeeze bottle using the screw nut and utilising the medicine cup hood cover.

These are similar to a training spout used to transition a child to drinking from a cup and can be used to train a child to drink both water and take food.

Finger foods are not permitted for a time after surgery. Time frames for this vary up to 6 weeks post op depending on the surgeon’s instructions. It is important to use a soft spoon for any solid feeds to avoid any damage to the palate. Using small quantities on the spoon is safer than using heaped spoonfuls.

Arm Splints
Palate repair surgery involves a stay in hospital for 2 -5 days or until feeding is re-established. Children will always respond better in their own environment. If you are at all concerned about feeding after surgery, ask the nursing staff on the ward to assist you or contact the speech pathology department.