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Cleft Lip/Palate

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What is Cleft Lip/Palate?

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth abnormalities of the mouth and lip. They occur early in pregnancy, when the sides of the lip and the roof of the mouth do not fuse together as they should. Most babies born with cleft lip or cleft palate are otherwise healthy with no other birth defects or genetic problems.

A child can have cleft lip, cleft palate, or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate together are more common in children assigned male at birth.

Cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth does not completely close, leaving an opening that can extend into the nasal cavity.

Cleft lip is an abnormality in which the lip does not completely form during fetal development.

What Causes Cleft Lip or Palate?

In most cases, there is no apparent cause of cleft lip or palate. Factors including genetic conditions and the use of certain medications may cause cleft lip or palate in some cases.

What are the Effects on Care for an Infant with Cleft Lip or Palate?

As a parent, it may be stressful to adjust to the obvious abnormality of the face. The degree of abnormality of both cleft lip and cleft palate can vary greatly.

Other possible complications that may be associated with cleft lip and cleft palate include:

By the Numbers


Infants with Cleft Lip/Palate Evaluated by Our Team in the Last 5 Years


Operations by Pediatric Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery Each Year


Patients Seen Each Year by Our Craniofacial Team

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UR Medicine's Treatments for Cleft Lip/Palate

Cleft Care Before Birth

If a cleft lip is found prenatally at another hospital or by your obstetrical provider, you may be referred to UR Medicine's Maternal-Fetal Care team.

It is important to note that while cleft lip is often, but not always found before birth, cleft palate is often diagnosed after birth as the palate is much more difficult to visualize prenatally.

We also offer the opportunity to meet with our cleft surgery pediatric nurse practitioner before birth to discuss our care pathway, feeding strategies, and to learn about the general timeline of care for your child.   

Cleft Care After Birth

Most infants with a Cleft Lip or Palate diagnosis will not need to be delivered at UR Medicine's Strong Memorial Hospital and cared for at Golisano Children's Hospital unless there are other associated concerns.  

However, these babies will need to follow-up with our craniofacial surgery team soon after birth to make sure feeding, breathing, and weight gain are adequate. Because the nose, lips, and palate may all be affected, infants with these conditions need a specialized team to help them thrive.

UR Medicine’s Cleft and Craniofacial team provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to nearly 400 babies each year, and our Pediatric Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery Program performs around 450 operations annually on children throughout the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

We also offer nasal alveolar molding (NAM) as a presurgical optimization tool for more complex cleft lip patients.

What Sets Us Apart?

The Pediatric Cleft and Craniofacial team at UR Medicine Golisano Children's Hospital offers the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region's only center dedicated to the needs and treatment of children born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other craniofacial anomalies.

When you are facing a pregnancy with a complex condition, just making all the needed appointments can be overwhelming. Our team is here to ensure you receive all the information and support you need before and after delivery, and in the years that follow.

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Granted AIUM Accreditation 2021-2024


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We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

1 location

Pediatric Cleft & Craniofacial Center - Rochester
Part of Strong Memorial Hospital

Golisano Children's Hospital
601 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14642

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