Unexpectedly, a child may be born with a congenital malformation of the cleft palate between the palate and the lip , called a cleft lip . Children with cleft lip or palate are born without having fully developed the upper lip or palate, as if they had not finished joining.
There are different levels of malformation , since the lip and palate develop separately, with children with a cleft lip but not the palate, with a cleft palate and not the lip, and with a cleft in both.
This malformation is the most common registered , affecting one in every 700 children, in its different grades and has a great impact on the family , in addition to psychologically affecting parents in the early stages, when they verify that their child is affected by the malformation.
WHY WAS THE CHILD BORN WITH THIS MALFORMATION?
There is no single reason, rather it is a combination of genetic factors , between 10% and 50% of fissures, together with certain environmental factors (insecticides, certain drugs, pesticides …), disorders in the metabolism of the folic acid, nutritional factors, exposure to toxins and drug use of the mother.
The fissure occurs during pregnancy , in the first trimester, around the eighth week.
IS THERE A TREATMENT FOR CLEFT LIP?
Effectively. For the treatment of the child with a cleft lip-palate, it is recommended that several specialists participate : the maxillofacial surgeon, the plastic surgeon, the orthodontist, the speech therapist, the pediatrician, the ENT specialist , the geneticist and the psychologist.
EXPOSURE TO TOXINS AND DRUG USE, AMONG THE MANY CAUSES OF CLEFT LIP
For example, the maxillofacial surgeon is responsible for the reconstruction of trauma, sequelae and deformities of the affected child. New techniques and devices such as the nasoalveolar shaper, maxillary tractors, orthognathic surgery … are constantly being put in place in order to achieve a correct development and correct the malformation as much as possible and with the least physical and mental damage to the child.
HOW CAN PARENTS DEAL WITH THEIR CHILD’S CLEFT LIP?
Above all, it is essential to put yourself in the hands of specialists with experience in the field.
From the first three months of life the lip can be repaired surgically , including lip and gum; the soft palate can then be surgically closed before the child is one year old. In the following years, while the child is still young, the gums and teeth can be treated and corrected, as well as reinforcement of pronunciation with the speech therapist. In more complex cases, medical discharge is usually between nine and twelve years of age, with an average of four surgical operations per patient.
The goal of surgery is to close the fissure with the least visible scar, on the one hand, and close the fissure so that the child can eat, drink and speak normally.
The best time for each intervention will be decided by the surgeon , depending on the child’s health, weight, type of malformation, etc., so that parents do not have to be impatient to achieve a “normal” appearance in your son. Everything will come in due time.
ARE THERE OTHER COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH CLEFT LIP?
As it is a malformation, in most cases other parts of the body are affected such as the voice, swallowing, otitis problems or upper respiratory problems; It is probably also necessary to go to speech therapy rehabilitation and follow special care , especially with regard to diet.
Children with a cleft lip are at greater risk of ear infections , as a result of an inadequate function of a muscle of the palate, which does not open the Eustachian tubes of the ear correctly, accumulating fluid in the ear and producing otitis media that causes fever and very severe pain in the ear. Due to the frequency of this problem, the child’s ear should be periodically examined by an ENT.
WILL YOU HAVE FEEDING PROBLEMS?
Logically, cleft lip affects food intake in a certain way, but it will always depend on the degree of malformation. Many children will have no difficulty, although it is true that some will have to struggle to get to eat quietly.
In some cases, they will not be able to breastfeed and will have to be bottle-fed , but parents should not be affected by this situation, as it is currently very common to bottle-feed babies and not because of a cleft lip, but for many other reasons. . On the market there are bottles and pacifiers designed to help you suck without the milk passing into the nasal passages.
Afterwards, the child will begin to eat with a spoon, and with patience the parents will teach him to eat correctly. It is essential to be advised by the pediatrician’s recommendations regarding diet and the way in which food is put into the mouth, so as not to harm the child or make him feel bad.
HOW WILL THE CHILD WITH A CLEFT LIP SPEAK, WILL HE HAVE PROBLEMS?
The child will surely speak normally, although his tone of voice may have a somewhat more nasal tone, which will be corrected with speech therapy. But in more than 80% of cases, children speak normally once their palate has closed .
HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS SITUATION PSYCHOLOGICALLY
The birth of a child with a cleft lip supposes a great change of illusions and expectations in their parents, which are abruptly replaced by seeking medical information about this malformation and in meeting the primary needs of these children. Their lives will change towards one main purpose: to rehabilitate the malformation and to achieve the best possible standard of living for their child .
Facing this difficult situation depends on many factors and is not always easy. There is a psychological adaptation that requires a great effort, due to the speed that is required in making decisions, because it is very likely that at three months of age the baby will already have to be operated on for the first time, to achieve development. healthy child.
They will have to make great adjustments in the family, and there will be moments of great stress and anxiety , because the situation is delicate and complex.
Many parents will experience feelings of guilt, sadness, anguish, they will be afraid of the social and physical future of their child … it may be necessary to go to a psychologist to guide them in their doubts, so as not to negatively affect their child with negative attitudes.
The child with a cleft lip probably has difficulty feeding, and if the parents add to this difficulty with dramatizations and inappropriate excesses in what is considered normal behavior, they will transfer that distress to the child. For this reason, it is necessary to have good psychological support and to properly follow the instructions to be followed to achieve a good diet.
Bureaucracy and excessive dealing with healthcare professionals can also burden parents, as well as the consequent expense of carrying out healthcare resources, that is, how to get funding.
When the child grows up and begins to relate to his environment, the fear also arises in the parents that their child is not accepted correctly among his peers, that he has problems when speaking, does not go at the same pace in learning, or have behavioral problems, such as being overly shy or being aggressive. Overprotecting the child from the outside will cause more problems than benefits , and achieving a balance will be the basis for having the problem under control.
The important thing is to know that the child is a normal person , that he has a correct mental development, that he is intelligent and that his personality will depend a lot on the education that his parents are capable of giving him. He will certainly have a normal schooling, he will have friends, and the child will go as far or further as if he had not had an open lip or palate.