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Directions for Post-Operative Care: Following Cleft Lip Repair

The first two weeks after your child's surgery, the cleft lip repair is not strong enough to resist damage that could be caused by foreign objects (or fingers!).

To prevent injury, promote healing, and maintain your child's comfort, it is important that you follow the instructions given after the surgery.

Feeding instructions

  • During the first week after surgery, you will feed your infant either with a syringe fitted with a special soft tubing, or a special cleft lip feeder (e.g., a Haberman feeder). We will give you the feeder that your surgeon decides is best for your child. The goal is to prevent your child from having to suck hard on formula or milk, and thus protect the newly repaired lip. Formula and pumped breast milk can both be given in the feeder.
  • At your first visit, 7 to 10 days after the surgery, your surgeon will tell you if any changes should be made to the above feeding instructions.

Lip care

  • Do not touch or handle your child's lip (surgical area). Allow any dried blood or crusty material to fall off on its own. Your surgeon or nursing staff will cleanse the lip at the first visit after surgery.


  • Any object your child puts in or around the mouth (including little fingers!) can ruin the repair. Therefore, your child must wear arm restraints ("splints") for the first 10 days after surgery. These must not be removed unless of an emergency or with physician consent. Keep your child on his/her back for one week to avoid having the lip rub on the sheet or carpet.

Relief of pain

You can expect your child to have mild to moderate pain for a few days. Give liquid acetaminophen (Tylenol®) as directed on the package. If a stronger medicine is needed, give as prescribed.

Problems to report to your doctor right away

  • A fever (temperature over 100.4°F)
  • Severe pain not relieved by the pain medicine
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Bleeding from and/or any change in the suture line (area of surgery)
  • Any direct injury to the repaired lip
  • Drainage from the incision that looks like pus or smells bad

Reaching your doctor

Call (603) 650-5148 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Call (603) 650-5000 after 5:00 p.m. and on weekends. Ask to speak with the doctor-on-call for Plastic Surgery.

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