If your child was born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, you can be reassured that it isn’t uncommon.
One in every 700 babies is born with this condition, making it one of the most common congenital conditions for babies in the modern world.
A cleft is another word for opening, and palate is the term for the roof of your mouth.
While it may seem scary, care teams will be at your disposal from the very beginning to help you navigate the challenges your child may face.
Whether it is concerns with feeding or speech, you can start building your child’s team now.
At District Speech And Language Therapy, we can help your child with cleft lip and palate speech therapy.
Keep reading for answers to some frequently asked questions about cleft lip and cleft palate.
What Is Cleft Palate?
If your child has a cleft palate, it probably developed during the first few months of their fetal development.
What it means is that your child has a gap or separation in the roof of their mouth.
This happens because the sides of the palate did not fuse together completely.
Cleft palate can be either unilateral or bilateral.
A bilateral cleft palate means that both sides of your child’s mouth are affected, while unilateral means only one side of their mouth is affected.
What Is Cleft Lip?
With a cleft lip, your child will have a gap in their lip.
This happens when their lips don’t fuse together during the first few months of fetal development.
Often, this means their upper gum line is also separated, and sometimes this gap will reach all the way to their nose.
Like cleft palates, your child’s cleft lip can be either unilateral or bilateral.
It is actually more common for your child to have both a cleft lip and a cleft palate than it is for them to have one or the other.
How Common Are Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate?
Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common congenital conditions affecting infants.
Every three minutes, a child is born with a cleft.
The reason this may not seem so prevalent is because of how much treatment is available to children with clefts in North America.
As is the case with so many congenital conditions, early intervention with speech therapy and other approaches is crucial to making sure your child gets the best start.
How Does Cleft Lip/Palate Affect Speech Development?
If your child was only born with a cleft lip, they will probably not have any more difficulty with speech than children without clefts.
However, if your child has a cleft palate or both, they may encounter difficulties with speech and language.
For example, the sounds they make may sound more nasal because of the gap in the roof of their mouth.
They may have especial difficulty with sounds like s, sh, j, and ch.
Before palate repair surgery, they may encounter delays in how soon they start baby babbling and making different sounds.
Sometimes your child will be able to catch up on their own after their palate is repaired.
However, it is perfectly normal and okay if your child needs additional help developing their speech as they grow.
Will My Baby With Cleft Lip/Palate Have Developmental Delays?
While most children with a cleft lip or cleft palate do not have significant issues with their development, close monitoring as they grow up is recommended.
They may experience delays with speech and language.
Because of this, they may have more difficulty with areas of learning that are language based.
If your child developed cleft palate or lip as part of another condition, they are more likely to have developmental delays.
Will My Baby With Cleft Lip/Palate Have Trouble Eating?
It’s possible that your child with a cleft palate and lip may need speech therapy treatments for a feeding disorder.
The palate is vital in keeping the food and liquid we consume from going into our noses.
Your child may gulp air more and then regurgitate their food into their nasal cavity.
Because of this, bottle feeding and breastfeeding your newborn may be more difficult than it otherwise would be.
You may need to modify feeding techniques to help your child nurse effectively.
Worry not, though, as there are bottles and nipples especially designed to help babies with cleft palates nurse.
How Do I Know If My Baby Has Cleft Lip/Palate?
Many parents know ahead of time from prenatal scans if their baby has a cleft lip.
However, your baby’s palate can’t be checked for a cleft until after they are born.
If they do not also have a cleft lip, you or part of your infant’s care team may notice the top of their mouth looks different.
While the cause of clefts is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, for the most part the causes are unknown.
How Can Speech Therapy For Cleft Lip/Palate Help?
In speech therapy, your child will receive a thorough evaluation.
It’s possible that your baby with a cleft lip or cleft palate may also suffer from velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPD).
What disorders under the umbrella of VPD all have in common is that the seal between your child’s mouth and nose is imperfect, which can lend to various speech issues.
Your speech therapist will check your child’s resonance and airflow (or air pressure).
Your child might be compensating for difficulties they have producing certain sounds.
A speech therapist can identify those struggles and help them physically manage their articulation.
Speech therapy can provide you with a plan to address your child’s unique needs.
Plans may include focusing on speech techniques to replace erroneous habits your child developed.
Your speech therapist will be a guide for you and your child as they recover and grow.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today
The earlier your child begins speech therapy, the greater their chances at success.
Here at District Speech we can address your child’s unique needs.
Book your appointment with District Speech today to get started.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.