A cleft palate is a hole in the roof of the mouth that occurs when the bones and tissues fail to fuse together when your baby is in your womb. It one of the most common birth defects, and while no identifiable cause can be determined in some cases, it is often the result of inherited syndromes or a genetic predisposition.
Fortunately, surgery can correct the cleft palate and restore the child's appearance. Not only does a cleft palate alter a child's appearance, it can also cause multiple complications. Here are some potential complications of a cleft palate and what you can do about them:
One of the most common problems with a cleft palate is poor feeding. Although most newborns with this condition can still breastfeed or take a bottle, the sucking motion may not be strong enough.
If your baby has feeding problems, the pediatrician may recommend that the child be fed through a feeding tube to maintain his or her weight, and so that malnutrition does not harm the internal organs.
Your baby can also feed from a bottle with a specially formed nipple to help facilitate a stronger suction. Since surgery is not typically performed for a cleft until the baby is approximately a year old, it is important that every effort is made to promote optimal feeding patterns.
Frequent Ear Infections
Ear infections are common in children who have clefts in their palates. This is because the hole in the palate, or roof of the mouth, does not allow the Eustachian tubes to drain fluid from the ears effectively, which causes it to build up in the middle ear. The result may be otitis media, which can cause a severe earache, popping sounds, hearing loss, and ear drainage. Ear infections may occur only in one ear, or bilaterally.
If your child gets frequent ear infections, make sure that he or she gets frequent hearing tests and checkups. If ear infections persist, the pediatrician may recommend "ear tube" placement, which will help drain the fluid out of the ears. While antibiotics resolve bacterial infections of the ear, overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance.
If your baby is born with a cleft palate, discuss your concerns with your pediatrician as soon as possible. The more you know about your child's condition and treatment options, the better prepared you will be to make an informed decision on which therapeutic care plan best suits your child's needs.