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Cleft Lip/Palate

Understanding Cleft Lip/Palate

Cleft lip and cleft palate affect the upper lip and roof of the mouth. It occurs when the tissue that forms the roof of the mouth and upper lip does not join before birth.  A baby can have a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both. This can affect a child's appearance and can lead to problems with eating, talking, and ear infections.

Surgery is often done to close the opening in the lip and palate. The surgery may be done in several stages, with the first surgery often performed during the baby's first year. 1

Fact Sheets and Frequently Asked Questions

Other Resources

  • The Cleft Palate Foundation, located in Chapel Hill,  operates the CLEFTLINE (1-800-24-CLEFT), a free service that provides information to callers about cleft lip/palate and other craniofacial anomalies. Callers can request information about cleft lip and palate and can locate support groups in their local region. The Cleft Palate Foundation also produces free publications.
  • March of Dimes strives to help women have full-term pregnancies and is dedicated to researching problems that threaten the overall health and well being of babies. Their website includes specific information about Cleft Lip and Palate.
  • The Cleft and Craniofacial Program at Duke University Medical Center offers care for patients with cleft lip and/or palate. The program’s multidisciplinary team approach provides patients with coordinated care from before birth through young adulthood.
  • The University of North Carolina Craniofacial Center consists of an interdisciplinary team of professionals dedicated to the care of the patient and family with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial anomalies. Their website includes a video, Blessings in Disguise, which gives additional information regarding team care from the patient, family and health care professional standpoint.
  • NC Health Info is an online guide to websites of quality health and medical information and local services throughout North Carolina.  Information is also available en espanol.

Advocacy and Social Connections


  1. Medline Plus (2011). Cleft Lip and Palate. Available online at



  • Oct 10 2014