What is Cleft Lip and Palate?

Cleft means ‘split’ or ‘separation’. During early pregnancy, separate areas of the face develop and then join together. If some parts do not join properly the result is a cleft, the type and severity of which can vary. Cleft lip and palate can occur separately or together.

A cleft lip (sometimes referred to as a harelip) can range from a slight notch in the coloured part of the upper lip to complete separation in one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) sides of the lip, extending up and into the nose.

A cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth has not joined completely.
The back of the palate (towards the throat) is called the soft palate and the front (towards the mouth) is called the hard palate. If you feel the inside of your mouth with your tongue, you will be able to notice the difference between the soft and the hard palate. A cleft can affect the soft palate, or both the soft and the hard palate.


About 1 in 700 babies is born with a cleft in the UK (that’s about 1,000 each year). The causes are not well understood, though it can sometimes run in families.


A cleft lip is usually surgically repaired within the first 6 months, and a cleft palate usually by the time a child is a year old. Some further surgery and orthodontic work may also take place when the child is older.

Babies born with clefts may need some extra help with feeding (because it can be difficult for them to form the vacuum necessary for sucking well).

As children get older, some speech therapy may also be necessary.

Treatment is provided by a child’s Cleft Lip and Palate Team. A Cleft Team is made up of all the professionals involved in the care of a cleft child, working together to ensure that the best treatment is given. A Cleft Team will include surgeon, orthodontist, paediatrician, speech and language therapist, specialist cleft nurse, amongst others.

[boxibt style=”success”]Information Courtesy of CLAPA:

CLAPA offers information and support to anyone affected by cleft lip and/or cleft palate across the UK. This includes children and adults born with the condition, parents of cleft babies, health professionals and siblings, colleagues and friends of someone born with the condition.
Third Floor,
235-237 Finchley Road,
Tel: 020 7431 0033
Fax: 020 7431 8881

Email: info@clapa.com

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