Caring for your Child after Cleft Lip Repair
What is a cleft lip repair?
A cleft lip repair is surgery to close the
opening in the upper lip. Tissues are
brought together and stitched to close the
opening. The scar should fade with time.
What to expect
ξ An IV (intravenous line) will provide
fluid for your child for the first day or
two, since he will not drink as much as
ξ Swelling around the lip may last for a
ξ A small amount of drainage may be pink
tinged or clear yellow in color.
ξ Stitches will dissolve on their own.
Clean the stitches with a mild soap and
water. To clean your child’s suture line
on the lip, prepare clean Q-tips dipped in
warm soapy water and Q-tips dipped in
clear warm water.
o Roll the Q-tip across the suture line.
o Keep using soapy Q-tips until the
suture line is clean.
o Rinse with warm water applied with
o Apply Neosporin or Bacitracin
ointment with a Q-tip (if your doctor
or nurse asks you to do so).
o Clean the lip suture line when it
becomes soiled, and after eating.
ξ Soft arm restraints will need to be worn
for a couple of weeks. They will prevent
your child from rubbing the stitches.
The restraints can be removed for short
periods of time, but only when an adult
is watching your child. Exercise your
child’s arms when restraints are off so
that they don’t become stiff. The
restraints should be taken off at least
every 4 hours unless the child is sleeping
through the night. The restraints are
very soft and most of the time, children
do not mind wearing them. Any extra
irritation to the site can make healing
take longer. Touching the site may
ξ It is best if your child does not use a
pacifier until healing is complete.
ξ Your child will be in the hospital
There is some pain during the first few days.
It is okay to give Tylenol the week after
surgery. It may help to give it ½ hour before
feedings to ease pain with eating. You
should not give your child ibuprofen
(Advil , Motrin ) for 1 week after the
The best way to feed your child is one that
does not call for sucking. Often it is the
same method used before surgery. Your
child should be held upright for feedings.
Small amounts of formula should be
squeezed into his mouth. It may go slowly
at first, but will in time return to his normal
If your child is eating solids, do not touch
the lip. Use the side of the spoon rather than
the tip to avoid injury.
Take cues from your child. Finish each
feeding by gently rinsing his mouth with
water to clean it. If the outside of the mouth
needs to be wiped off after a feeding, pat it
gently, instead of rubbing it.
Your child should be propped in a sitting
position in an infant seat or held in a
parent’s arms. Your child may lie on his
back, but watch him closely so he does not
roll over to his stomach and irritate the
incision. Don’t place your baby on his
stomach for the first few days.
During naps and at bedtime, place your child
on his side. Roll a small blanket for support
behind the child's back.
Be sure your child gets plenty of rest the day
before surgery. Also, plan quiet activities
for the first few days after. Children heal
quickly but will need a few days of rest to
Your child may have his first follow up visit
with the doctor in 5-7 days. The second
visit should be in about 2 weeks.
When to call the doctor or clinic nurse
ξ Bleeding from the incision
ξ Signs of infection (increased redness,
warmth or swelling of the incision or
ξ Temperature over 100 θ F when taken
under the arm, over 101 θ F when taken
in the ear, or over 102 θ F when taken
ξ Not taking feedings
ξ Persistent vomiting
ξ Pain not controlled by medicine
AFCH Pediatric Specialty Clinic, weekdays
8:00 am to 5:00 pm: (608) 263-6420 option
After hours, nights, weekends and holidays,
the clinic number is answered by the paging
operator. Ask for the Plastic Surgery
resident on call. Leave your name and
phone number with the area code. The
doctor will call you back.
If you live outside the Madison area, call
Your doctor’s name:
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 11/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4531