Cleft Lip & Palate

Clefts of the lip and palate come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Clefts of the lip may require only one surgery to repair, whereas clefts of the lip and palate require two separate surgeries. Clefts of the lip and/or palate may be partial, complete, one-sided, asymmetric, or bilateral.

Dr. Magill is highly experienced and expertly trained in surgical care of patients with cleft lip and palate. She and her team work with children and adults of all ages who have been born with a cleft lip and/or palate. Dr. Magill is one of very few surgeons in Alaska able to provide comprehensive medical and surgical care for cleft patients. Please visit: for reliable and up to date information on caring for a newborn or individual with a cleft. View before and after patient photos in our gallery.

For New/Expecting Parents

Congratulations on your new baby! The information provided here is intended to give you some general information about what to expect when your baby is born with a cleft lip and/or palate. We are here to support you and provide information as you learn more about what a cleft lip and/or palate means for you and your baby.

As you approach your due date, here are some things to know:

  • Firstly, it is very important to understand that clefts of the lip or palate do not cause pain or discomfort for your baby, but require specialized care to help your baby grow and thrive.

  • Your baby will be seen by our doctor very shortly after birth. We will make sure that early teamwork starts to get you and your baby off to a good start. This may include working with a nurse or therapist to teach your baby to feed from a special bottle. Most babies with a cleft palate and some babies with a cleft lip cannot breastfeed because it is difficult for them to get a good seal around the nipple area. This is similar to trying to drink through a straw with a hole in the side of it – hard to do, despite your best effort. For this reason, an early priority is getting good nutrition for the baby with a special bottle and using specialized feeding techniques.

  • We make sure your baby is checked for any other medical conditions that need early attention. Although many babies with a cleft lip or palate have no other medical problems, we will work with your pediatrics team to check everything over. The earlier that any problems are found or diagnosed, the sooner we can help.

  • Babies with a cleft lip or palate will need surgery in order to close any clefts. Lip surgery may be done in one or two stages, depending on what will give your baby the absolute best result. We usually perform cleft lip repair surgery after 10 weeks of age, and cleft palate surgery at 12 months of age.

  • After cleft lip surgery, babies can typically go home later that same day. If infants have other health or medical concerns in addition to the cleft lip, they may need to stay overnight in the hospital.

  • Babies are in the hospital for one to two days after palate surgery to make sure they get good hydration and start eating. During surgery to close the palate, babies will also get ear tubes. This helps compensate for Eustachian tube dysfunction. Children with cleft palates often have problems with their Eustachian tubes, which can result in collection of fluid in the middle ear and can ultimately cause hearing loss.

  • As babies with a cleft lip or palate grow into older children and young adults, we will work with a team to make sure tooth alignment is as good as it can be. Sometimes children who have permanent teeth coming in need extra bone in the area of a cleft. We can help with this by doing alveolar bone grafting around 9 years of age. Orthodontics may also be needed.

  • An older teenager or an adult who was born with a cleft lip or palate may desire nose surgery when they are fully grown in order to help with nasal breathing or appearance. This is usually performed after 16 years of age.

  • Throughout your baby’s development, we will monitor speech, hearing, growth and healing to make sure your child is reaching their full potential. This is often done with a team of experts who work together on your child’s behalf.

Patient Resources

There are many resources for parents of babies with clefts:

You are also welcome to contact our office.