Cleft lip and cleft palate are malformations of the oral portion of the face. A cleft is an area that does not have enough tissue as a baby forms in the womb, which results in a portion of the face that does not join together.
A cleft lip is a split of the upper lip, which can extend from nose and includes the bones of the jaw or gums. A cleft palate involves the roof of the mouth, which either involves the hard palate—bone—or the soft palate at the back of the mouth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States about 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip.
Children with this condition often have difficulty eating and speaking clearly. Surgery is recommended to fix the condition, usually within the child’s first 18 months.