Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur when the developing baby’s mouth does not form properly. In the case of cleft lip, a split is left in the tissue of the upper lip that may extend up into the nasal cavity. In cleft palate, the growth plates that form the roof of the baby’s mouth (palate) fail to close, leaving a crack or a large opening. The child may have a single split on one side of the mouth that ranges in size from a small indentation to a crevice that extends into the nose. Sometimes a child will have a cleft on both sides of the upper lip that can extend into the nose, creating a large gap in the child’s facial tissue.
Cleft lip and cleft palate can occur separately or together.