My Baby Was Born with a Cleft Palate. Now What?
Above all else, we at North Texas Plastic Surgery want to say congratulations! Child birth is the most amazing experience a parent will ever have.
One of the first things that you need to know is that your baby will have a happy healthy life. Dr. Obaid treats babies with cleft palate from all over the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, as well as Oklahoma and Louisiana. For the vast majority of babies, cleft lip and or palate is their only health problem, and it is a treatable one.
How Do I Feed My Baby with Cleft Palate?
One of the first challenges that a mother with a baby that has a cleft palate will face is how to feed the baby. Babies suck on a nipple by squeezing the nipple between their tongue and their palate to create a seal and then breathing in. Babies that have a cleft palate are unable to compress a nipple and as a result struggle to breast feed or suck from a normal bottle.
There are a number of nipples that are commercially available now that are designed to overcome this problem. The two most common are the Haberman nipple and the Pigeon nipple.
If you are visiting Dr. Obaid from the Dallas or Fort Worth areas for cleft palate treatment, he will refer you to a speech pathologist that he works with regularly to help you with feeding. If you are coming for cleft palate treatment from Louisiana ,Oklahoma, or other surrounding areas, Dr. Obaid will help you find a speech pathologist with cleft palate experience near you to assist you with feeding.
The most important thing to realize about a baby with a cleft palate is that you CAN FEED BY MOUTH! It takes time and patience, but Dr. Obaid and the speech pathologists that he works with will help you with this.
When Should My Baby Have Their Cleft Palate Repaired?
Dr. Obaid typically performs cleft palate repair between 9 and 12 months of age. The timing of the repair is designed to have the surgery completed before the onset of speech while at the same time allowing your baby the maximum amount of time to grow healthy and strong prior to the operation.
If your baby has a cleft lip in addition to the cleft palate, his/her cleft lip will be repaired first at approximately 3 months of age. The cleft palate will be repaired separately at 9 to 12 months of age.
What Is The Biggest Long-Term Problem That Can Result from Cleft Palate?
The most important long-term problem that can result from cleft palate is a problem with speech. In some patients, a repaired cleft palate may experience significant scarring and may not function properly. These children may experience a condition called velopharyngeal insufficiency.
Children with this condition have air escape from their nose when they try to speak. The result is a high pitched nasal sounding voice, and a difficulty making certain sounds in the English language. This difficulty in rare cases can be so bad that people may have a hard time understanding the patient’s speech.
Preventing speech problems is Dr. Obaid’s number one concern in fixing a cleft palate. Dr. Obaid will close the cleft palate sometime between nine and twelve months of age. The goal will be to close it prior to your baby beginning to speak. Once a baby starts to speak with a cleft palate, they will learn ways of speaking to compensate for the cleft. These attempts at compensating can be very difficult to unlearn, and many children who have learned them, require years of speech therapy to try and correct.
It is essential that you see Dr. Obaid as soon as you are given the diagnosis of cleft palate so that he can examine your baby, plan for your baby’s cleft palate correction and answer all of your questions.
What Does My Baby’s Cleft Palate Have to Do With Hearing?
In addition to speech production, an intact palate is necessary for proper inner ear function. Babies with cleft palates have nonfunctioning portions of their inner ear. As a result, they cannot drain fluid normally from inside the ear. This fluid can build up inside the ear, causing repeated ear infections. With time, multiple ear infections can lead to hearing loss and even deafness in severe cases.
When you meet with Dr. Obaid to discuss your baby’s cleft palate, he will refer you to an experienced pediatric ENT that will examine your child’s ears and follow their hearing. If you are coming to see Dr. Obaid from outside the Dallas or Fort Worth areas for your cleft palate care, he will refer you to an ENT that is close to you.
At the same time as your baby’s cleft repair, Dr. Obaid will have one of his ENT colleagues place ear tubes (myringotomy tubes) that will help drain the fluid from inside your baby’s ears. Most children will need multiple sets of tubes throughout their childhood as they outgrow them or they naturally fall out.
My Child Had A Cleft Palate and Has Problems With Speech Now. Is There Anything That Can Be Done?
If your child has speech problems after a cleft palate repair, there is hope! His/her speech can be improved.
With intense speech therapy under the direction of Dr. Obaid, many speech problems can be improved if not completely fixed. There are some children who are unable to correct their speech problems despite aggressive speech therapy. For these children, Dr. Obaid may be able to correct their speech with an operation called a pharyngeal flap.
What Is a Pharyngeal Flap?
A pharyngeal flap is an operation that is performed in children who have persistent speech problems after their cleft palate repairs. Prior to performing a pharyngeal flap, children should have aggressive speech therapy to determine if therapy alone can correct the problem. If not, then Dr. Obaid may perform a pharyngeal flap. It is important for parents to realize that while a pharyngeal flap will improve speech, children will need to continue in speech therapy post-operatively to get the maximum benefit from the operation.
For a comprehensive discussion of your child's cleft palate repair and what this condition may mean for your child's development, please contact North Texas Plastic Surgery by calling 817-416-8080 today. Dr. Obaid has offices in Southlake and Plano, Texas, where he welcomes patients from throughout the Dallas area and those traveling from other Southern states.