Cleft lip, palate: the congenital malformation that steals babies’ smiles

Babies with split lips

Giving birth by caesarean section (CS) has its associated pains, but undergoing it and delivering a baby with a birth defect has a psychological effect on mothers.

Ms. Doris Agbetuormyo is the mother of an eight-month-old boy with a cleft lip and a congenital malformation.

Before she could overcome the pain of CS she suffered or recovered from the shock of having a baby with a defect the husband added salt to her wound as he vanished into thin air after seeing the baby at a Dansoman clinic, where she delivered.

She is not alone in this difficult situation of not knowing what to do in such a situation, as many give birth to babies with different birth defects.

What are cleft lip and cleft palate?
According to, cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur early in pregnancy as the baby develops in the womb. Cleft occurs when there is not enough tissue in the mouth or lip area and the available tissue does not join properly.

A cleft lip is a physical slip or separation on both sides of the upper lip, which often extends beyond the base of the nose and includes the upper jaw and/or upper gum bones.

A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth, which can involve the hard palate (the bony front part of the roof of the mouth) and/or the soft palate which is the soft back part of the roof of the mouth.

It is possible to have a cleft lip without a cleft palate, and vice versa or both because the lip and palate develop separately. The cause of the defect is not yet known to experts.

It is believed that more than 170,000 babies are born each year with a cleft in developing countries, while one in 700 babies in the United States are born with a cleft lip or palate or both.

Corrective Surgery / Operation Smile Ghana
To bring smiles back to babies and their parents, some organizations including Operation Smile Ghana often perform free makeover surgery for babies which has less scares and enables them to have a normal life as they grow older. grow up.

With a team of professionals including surgeons, paediatricians and nutritionists among others, Mr. Clement Ofosuhemeng, Patient Coordinator of Operation Smile Ghana, says he is determined to bring back stolen joy and smiles to families.

To ensure that nothing stands in the way of parents presenting their babies for monthly checkups and subsequent surgery, they ensure that all associated financial burdens, including transportation and feeding, are taken care of. charge.

Nutrition and cleft
Among other factors, nutrition is one of the major determinants in preparing a baby for surgery, revealed Mrs. Dede KwadjoMsead of Nutrition for Operation Smile Ghana and Senior Dietitian at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

A child with a cleft lip must have a minimum weight of at least six kilograms at six months, while those with a cleft palate must not weigh 10 kilograms to be eligible for surgery.

Many babies have weight-related issues due to feeding challenges with the defect. To help get them into the best nutritional shape, the nutrition team meets and assesses babies for early detection of nutritional issues and puts in place the right interventions to ensure surgery is done at the right time to save the baby. speech impaired child. .

Caregivers and parents with knowledge deficits receive the education necessary to properly and effectively feed babies fortified foods to build their nutritional base to achieve the necessary weight prior to surgery.

One of the things that parents of split babies face is stigma, shame, and name-calling, which often forces them to hide their babies, preventing them from getting needed medical care and schooling.

There have been reports of people calling children with defects as spiritual children and cursing the society leading to the death of some of them, a similar incident happened a few weeks ago in the central region when the parents and grandfather of a special two-year-old were arrested for burying her.

Mr. Kofi Wayo, father of a 16-month-old baby girl, Ms. Mercy Takyi, mother of a 17-month-old baby boy, and Ms. Ajara Mumuni, mother of a one-year-old and four-month-old baby, all shared their experiences. of catering to split children and the stigma associated with it with the Ghana News Agency.

For these parents, although it is not an easy road to walk, perseverance, faith in God and seeking medical help is the way to go instead of hiding babies and closing doors to them. transformative surgery.

Parents, carers, community members and opinion leaders should strive to help identify and encourage people to get help for babies with a cleft as it could be corrected and the sooner this is done, the better it is for the child to have a normal life devoid of stigma and shame.

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Christine E. Phillips