3 Things Parents Should Know About Cleft Palate Surgery

If prenatal ultrasounds have determined that your child will be born with a cleft palate, or if you've recently given birth to a baby with a cleft palate, you probably have a lot of questions about your child's surgery and how to cope with it. Take a look at some important things that parents should know about what to expect with their child's medical treatment.

Cleft Palates Are Becoming More Common

You may be surprised to learn that cleft palates are on the rise, occurring in more and more babies born in the United States. That may not sound like good news, but if you're the parent of a child with a cleft palate, there is a silver lining to the increase in these cases – it means that there are more surgeons and other specialists who are familiar with and experienced in treating these cases. More experienced medical personnel can only be good news for your little one.

The increase in cleft palate cases also means that you're not the only parents out there dealing with this issue. Ask your pediatrician or surgeon if they can recommend a support group for parents in your situation. That way you'll be able to ask questions and receive support from other people who have been in your shoes.

Cleft Palate Surgery Is Expensive

The cost of repairing your child's cleft palate may be more expensive than you think. You'll be paying for the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the lab work, the prescription, the hospital costs and fees, and for the therapies and other things your child will need following the surgery. Depending on the severity of the cleft, you may also be paying for more than one surgery.

The good news is, as reconstructive surgery, cleft palate repair is usually covered by insurance. With insurance, you can expect to pay between $200 and $2000 out of pocket. However, if you don't have insurance, you could be paying up to $20,000. If you're uninsured, or if you cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs, don't panic. There are state and federal programs that can help, as well as private charitable organizations that offer assistance.

Getting Through Recovery

How do you handle a child who is too little to understand in the aftermath of a surgery? Cleft palate surgery can be particularly difficult on a baby or toddler because you can't just tell them to leave the surgical site alone and expect them to do so. You'll most likely need to immobilize your child's elbows so that they can't put their hands, toys, or anything else in their mouths. You can do this with "no-nos", or pediatric splints.

Your baby will also need to eat through a tube or syringe while their surgical site heals – they won't be able to suck on a nipple or pacifier right away. This can be especially distressing for breastfeeding mothers who worry that they may not be able to continue nursing post-surgery. Don't worry, though – you can still feed your child pumped milk, and once the surgical site heals, you and your child will likely find breastfeeding far easier with the repaired palate.

It's normal to worry, but don't allow stress to get the best of you. With a good pediatric plastic surgeon and medical team, you have nothing to fear when it comes to cleft palate surgery.