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Cleft lip and palate

Black and white photo of a young girl in her mid 20's who had cleft lip.

A cleft lip or palate is a gap or split in the upper lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). This happens during early pregnancy. Parts of your baby’s face didn’t properly join together during development in the womb. It is unknown why it happens.

Cleft lip and palate are the most common facial birth defect in the UK, affecting 1 in 700 babies. Most clefts will be found during antenatal scans and your baby will be referred to the Specialist Cleft team are Addenbrooke’s hospital, also known as the East of England Cleft Lip and Palate Network. Here you will be given advice on feeding and surgical procedures.

Difficulties related to cleft lip and palate

Cleft lips and cleft palates can sometimes cause a number of issues, particularly in the first few months, before surgery is carried out.

Speech and language therapy

If your child is born with a cleft palate or lip, they will immediately be referred to the Specialist Cleft Team. The speech and language therapist in this team can provide advice and therapy on babble, speech and language development. This team will be managing and monitoring your child.

Your child may be referred to the community speech and language therapy team when:

    • the specialist team feel that your child requires more regular therapy
    • your child starts attending school

The community speech and language therapy team and the specialist cleft team will work closely together. The specialist therapist will provide advice and targets for the community therapist to work with you and your child. 

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023


Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

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