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
- An IV (intravenous line) will provide fluid for your child for the first day or two, since he will not drink as much as usual.
- Swelling around the lip may last for a few weeks.
- A small amount of drainage may be pink tinged or clear yellow in color.
- 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.
- Roll the Q-tip® across the suture line.
- Keep using soapy Q-tips until the suture line is clean.
- Rinse with warm water applied with Q-tips®.
- Apply Neosporin® or Bacitracin® ointment with a Q-tip® (if your doctor or nurse asks you to do so).
- Clean the lip suture line when it becomes soiled, and after eating.
- 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 cause infection.
- It is best if your child does not use a pacifier until healing is complete.
- Your child will be in the hospital overnight.
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 surgery.
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 feeding pattern.
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 get better.
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
- Bleeding from the incision
- Signs of infection (increased redness, warmth or swelling of the incision or pus-like drainage)
- Temperature over 100°F when taken under the arm, over 101°F when taken in the ear, or over 102°F when taken rectally
- Not taking feedings
- Persistent vomiting
- Pain not controlled by medicine
Plastic Surgery Clinic, weekdays 8:00 am to 5:00 pm: (608) 263-7502
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 toll-free 1-800-323-8942.
Your doctor’s name: _______________________________________________
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/27/2011
Copyright © 07/27/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4531
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