Preparing for your child’s lip repair surgery

Sending your baby into lip repair surgery is scary. You have no idea what to expect, what to prepare for, what to pack. You have no idea how they will recover or how they will eat. Your emotions are everywhere. You are stressed, scared, upset, anxious, nervous. While trying to soak up every moment with your baby’s wide smile before surgery, you also have to get everything ready at home and for the hospital. It can get very overwhelming so I thought I would share some advice/tips that I felt were helpful.

Disclaimer: I do share a couple personal experiences. Please do remember every baby is different.

1. Take something that is familiar to your baby.

Take something that your baby is close with, such as a stuffed animal, lovey or blanket. If they use a white noise machine or a baby shusher, take that. Our hospital happened to have a white noise speaker built into the wall so we ended up not needing ours but it’s better to take it just in case. Taking something that your child has a bond with will help them stay calm. It’s scary for them to be in the hospital. There are a bunch of strangers in their face. They don’t know where they are or why they are there. It’s important to make them feel comfortable and make it feel like home during their hospital stay.

2. Side snap onesies, zip-ups or button up pajamas are a MUST!

They will be in a hospital gown for awhile after surgery but eventually you can change them into clean clothes. You don’t want to pull anything over their face to risk rubbing or bumping their lip. Side snap onesies, button up or zip-up pj’s are so easy for both you and your baby! It’s also helpful to have footless pajamas because they will have a monitor on their toe the entire time they are there. You will also want a ton of bibs and spit rags.

3. Take some Ibuprofen/Tylenol for you!!!

It is a very hectic time for your family. You don’t have much time to eat or sleep. Your baby will be crying more than usual. You will probably get a headache. We learned the hard way that the nurses are not aloud to provide you or your partner with medicine.

4. Pack extra clothes for you and your baby.

While the surgeons and nurses try to clean your baby’s face as much as possible after surgery, they will still have some blood on their face which is completely normal. With this being said, you will probably get blood on you so I would recommend wearing a dark colored shirt or a shirt that you don’t mind if it gets stained.

You were probably told that they will be discharged the next day after surgery but sometimes they have to stay a little longer if they are not eating well or handling the pain well. Hopefully this isn’t the case for you but just in case you will want to have enough clothes. More is better than less.

5. Stay busy during surgery!

It will feel like a lifetime waiting for your baby to get out of surgery. Take something to keep you occupied. A book, puzzle, coloring book, something to knit, take walks, write in a journal. I know it sounds crazy but try to keep yourself as busy as possible. I would suggest eating a big meal while you are waiting. It may be awhile until you can eat next. You will want all the energy you can get. Sitting in the recovery room is one the of the hardest things. Do whatever you need to do to stay calm.

6. Try to request a rocking chair once you get to the room.

Rocking chairs aren’t usually in every single hospital room. Your baby will probably want to be held more than anything. before my son’s surgery I was told by some many fellow cleft mamas to request a chair ASAP. In my situation we weren’t able to get rocking chair in our room and my son wanted to be help the entire time. Our nurses wouldn’t let us lay with him so we had to stand CONSTANTLY with him. My son was actually in the hospital for 5 days because his pain wasn’t being managed and he wasn’t eating so a rocking chair would have been SO helpful. Standing and rocking your baby for days on end really gets to your body especially when you aren’t getting any sleep. So try your best to get rocking chair.

7. Don’t get discouraged.

Some babies will eat immediately in the recovery room and some may not eat until the day after surgery. DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. Remember, they have to relearn how to eat. They have to learn how to use their new lip. Their face and lip are very swollen. Their lip feels heavy to them. They aren’t used to eating with a “normal” lip. Be open to trying different techniques. A speech therapist may come by and observe your baby while eating. They may suggest trying to syringe feed, cup feed, spoon feed or even trying a different bottle. The anesthesia also makes them very gassy and may even upset their stomach so this can also play a factor in their feedings.

8. Take breaks. Give your partner a break.

It can get very overwhelming after surgery. You are stuck in this tiny hospital room with doctors and nurses coming in every hour. You will be running off little to no sleep. It’s hard to see your baby in pain. It can get frustrating because you feel helpless and cannot do anything to make your baby feel better. This is all normal to feel. It is so important to take breaks. Take a breather. Even if it’s just a 30 second walk down the hall to the nurses station and back. Make sure your spouse does the same. Make sure they are okay too.

9. The biggest tip I can give, STAY ON TOP OF THE PAIN! DO NOT FALL BEHIND ON THE MEDICINE.

I cannot express how important this is. You do not want to get behind on the pain medicine because it is sooooo hard to catch back up. They really try their best to avoid giving narcotics after surgery so most of the time they have the babies on Tylenol every 4 hours. Some babies do great with just Tylenol. Some unfortunately need something stronger.

In our case, our son was not handling the pain well. Our nurse was caught up in something and came 45 minutes late for his Tylenol. This put him so far behind on his pain medicine which lead to a 5 day hospital stay that was only suppose to be a 1 night stay.

You have to advocate for your child. If you have to page the nurse 5 times in order to get your babies medicine on time then that’s what you need to do. You know your child best. If your baby isn’t doing well on just Tylenol then let them know. The most important thing is to stay on top of the pain, do not get behind on it.

10. Take as many pictures as possible before surgery.

Saying goodbye to their cleft smile is so extremely hard. It is the only thing you know. It is what makes them who they are. Soak up every single second with their sweet wide smile. Take a million pictures. While it will be so heartbreaking to say goodbye to their cleft smile, the smile you first fell in love with; you will fall in love all over again with their forever smile.

Any kind of surgery is hard but it’s especially hard when they are just 3-6 months old. It will be tough and you will be so desperate for sleep. Coffee and energy drinks will be your best friend for a week or two. But please remember that it is not forever. It will get better. Your baby will start to feel better. You will see them smile again. They will be that happy baby again. Just give them a week or two, it will get better. Cleft babies are so incredibly strong and can get through anything that comes their way.

This too shall pass.

*as always, feel free to message/email me if you have any questions, need advice or need to just talk/vent.

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