Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies Center

Cleft Lip Surgery

Cleft lip is one of the most common and one of the most correctable birth defects. Surgery is required to close the gap in the upper lip.

Cleft lip surgery pre-op


Our skilled plastic surgeon and the surgical team at Golisano Children's Hospital will do its best to ensure your child's comfort and safety, as well as your peace of mind during the procedure. Often, it helps to know what to expect following surgery.

What to Expect

After surgery, your child will have an IV until he or she is able to take fluids well by mouth. Generally, you will be able to breast feed or give your baby clear liquids by bottle soon after surgery. Once your child is tolerating small amounts well, you will be able to add formula and food gradually. Your child will be unable to eat any hard foods or use a pacifier for 6 weeks after surgery.

  • Stitches. Stitches will need to be removed 5-7 days after surgery. After they are removed, steri strips (medical tape) will be placed on the incision for an additional week.
  • Healing. Immediately following surgery and during the short-term healing period, it is important that your child does not rub his or her face against bed linens, clothing, toys, etc., because it could disturb the stitches and cause infection. For this reason, comfortable restraints will be applied to your child's arms to limit contact with the surgery site.
  • Swelling and drainage. It is normal to have some swelling at the surgery site and some bloody drainage coming from the nose and mouth. Don't be alarmed; this drainage will decrease over a short time.
  • Pain. Your child will experience some soreness that can be relieved by a non-aspirin pain medication such as Tylenol or Motrin. You may also receive a prescription for a stronger pain reliever in case your child's pain is not relieved by Tylenol or Motrin.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotic medication will be given to your child to prevent infection while in the hospital.
  • Cleaning the incision. It is important to keep the incision clean. You may cleanse the incision with mild soap and water and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment. This helps keep the site free from infection and will help ensure minimal scaring. Your child's nurse will be able to help you with this.

Going Home

Cleft lip surgery post-op


As a general rule, most children will go home the day after surgery. Stitches will be removed 5-7 days later during a follow-up appointment. Your child may return to most normal activities. No contact sports or rough play is allowed until your doctor states otherwise.

When to Call the Doctor

Be sure to contact your child's pediatrician if he or she experiences any of the following:

  • Fever of 101 or higher
  • Significant amount of blood coming from the incision
  • Drainage that has a foul odor or is green/yellow in color
  • If your child is not eating or drinking enough
  • If your child is not urinating or is urinating very little

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To contact the Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial Center or a team member, please call (585) 273-FACE.

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Success Stories

See pictures of the beautiful children who have been helped by the Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial team at Golisano Children's Hospital.

See our patients before and after surgery.