The Surgery

During the surgery to repair your child’s cleft lip, the surgeon will spend a large amount of time precisely aligning the structures of the lip and base of the nose. Once aligned, sutures are placed on the inside of the mouth, through the muscle of the lip and on the outside of the lip. Sutures will be either absorbable or nonabsorbable. If they are nonabsorbable, you will be given an appointment to have these removed by our team the following week.Your surgeon may also place nasal stents into the nostrils to help hold the shape of the nose. You will be given instructions about care of the stents. 

What to Expect Immediately Following Surgery

The lip may have some oozing or crusted blood on the incision. There also may be some swelling of the lip.Your child should be able to tolerate drinking fluids, though the lip may be sore. For the first day, your child should have only a liquid diet. After the first day, a diet of soft foods is allowed. If this is your child’s first lip repair, the surgeon will likely admit your child to the hospital overnight to monitor pain and feeding.

What to Expect in the Weeks Following Surgery

The incision will be pink and may thicken in the weeks to months following surgery. Once the sutures have come out, you may start scar massage and your surgeon will give you brown paper tape to cover the incision. Over time, the pink color and thickness should decrease.

What to Expect at Home

  • Any crusting on the incision should be cleaned gently with a cotton swab (Q-tip) and a mixture of half hydrogen peroxide and half water.
  • Cover the incision with bacitracin for the first three days. You may switch to vaseline after that.
  • Give Tylenol or prescription pain medication for discomfort.
  • Avoid activities that could cause injury to mouth.

When to Call the Doctor’s Office

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, drainage of pus or opening of incision
  • Worsening pain
  • Unable to tolerate drinking fluids