My Son’s Cleft Lip Recovery Story

When my son Adam was born with a cleft lip, I was heartbroken and very scared of the road that lied ahead of us. A few days after his birth, I met the man to whom I am now eternally grateful, his plastic surgeon Dr. Brad Wilhelmi. The doctor spent quite a bit of time with us explaining the surgery that would be needed to repair my sons lip as well as what to expect after the procedure. We were given a surgery date to coincide with the “rules of 10” that they go by, meaning he needed to be 10 weeks old, weigh 10 pounds and have 10 grams of hemoglobin. This began our nervous waiting for that day to arrive.

One of the things that the doctor had mentioned was the fact that we would need to feed my son from a soft catheter syringe for a few weeks following the surgery. This really made me nervous as my son loved his bottle and was a pretty healthy eater. A couple of weeks before the surgery I asked the doctor if it would be ok to feed my son with a spoon after the surgery and he gave his approval and thought that would be a good idea. I began by preparing my sons formula and then mixing some of it into a jar of baby food. This gave the baby food a more liquid consistency, and was easy to put on a spoon. It took a few times of practice but my son was catching on to his new way of eating. I know many experts say not to feed a child solids this early and to start with rice cereal first however this was my son and I needed to do what was going to be best for us.

The day of the surgery I was a bundle of nerves. I had explained the situation to my family doctor before hand and was able to get some anxiety medicine to take that day to help keep me calm. I highly suggest doing this as you will be dealing with a ton of emotions. Since my son couldn’t have anything to eat or drink after midnight, he was a pretty unhappy baby by the time the surgery rolled around. I kissed him and cried as the nurses whisked him away to begin his procedure. After pacing nervously for 3 hours as the surgery went on the surgeon finally came to give us the good news. Things went well and we were shown pictures and taken to the recovery room to see our baby.

Our son had to stay in the hospital overnight and we were shown how to feed him with the syringe. Since we stayed with him we got plenty of practice doing this. The best way I found was to fill 2 syringes up at a time with formula and to be filling one as you feed with the other. It also helps to position the syringe on the side of the mouth to avoid choking the baby. After we left the hospital I continued feeding him this way as well as mixing the formula with the baby food and feeding him from a spoon.

We were told to give him tylenol for pain every few hours the first couple of days home. That seemed to work rather well and within a few days he was fine and seemed to be coping well with the pain.

Often times the child will have to wear arm restraints to keep them from grabing the bandage that is across their face. We were advised to remove it several times a day and to move the babies arms around and let them stretch. I found the best way to handle this was to remove them only one at a time and to hold the arm so the bandage doesn’t get grabbed at.

To keep my son from rolling over onto his face I bought some wedge pillows that I put on each side of him when he went to bed at night. I also limited his tummy time and found other activities to keep him stimulated. We dressed him in clothes that we didn’t have to pull over his head, and bought front snap shirts. Those were very convenient to put on.

Time quickly flew by and before you know it we were at the Dr. and getting the ok to take off the bandage and arm restriants. My son looked great. We were advised to massage the scar and avoid direct sunlight until the scar matures.

It has now been 10 months since the surgery and my son still looks great. The scar appeared very red for a while which is common however now it has faded and is becoming less obvious. We still have some surgeries to undergo for the nasal symmetry issues but for now all is well.

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