Mom shares experience with new Children’s of Alabama program offering cleft palate therapy

Mom discusses impact of cleft palate/lip program
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 11:53 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Children’s of Alabama announced a new program this week which offers specialized treatment to children with cleft lips and palates.

The Bill and Pam Smith Family Foundation donated at $600,000 gift to the program. It allows Children’s to offer Nasoalveolar Molding (NAM) services to the entire region.

It’s a therapy that Jessica Mitchell’s son Crew experienced for months of his early life.

“Crew had a bi-lateral cleft lip which means he had two splits,” explained Jessica Mitchell. “One was all the way up through the nose and one was just half of the lip.”

Crew was born in August 2021 and Mitchell says he’s had a big personality since.

“He is probably the happiest, most laid-back baby I have ever met in my life,” she said. “Like, he smiles all the time!”

Doctors at Children’s of Alabama helped him make that smile even bigger.

“Really, the NAM helped prevent an extra surgery in his first year of life,” said Mitchell. “For me, it was a no-brainer to do it.”

Children’s describes NAM as “a pre-surgical cleft lip and palate therapy designed to reduce the size of the cleft by molding and repositioning the nose and mouth tissues prior to surgery. Infants wear a custom-fitted appliance, similar to an orthodontic retainer, for an estimated 12 weeks, as long as 23 hours a day.”

Mitchell says while it wasn’t easy at first, Crew eventually grew accustomed to it. After the first week or two, she says the young boy began eating better with the mouth piece.

He wore the device from about three weeks old to five months old. Crew had his surgery on February 7, 2022.

“Especially when you have a newborn, there’s so many things you’re dealing with emotionally anyways, so it’s not the easiest thing but it’s a very short period of time,” said Mitchell.

Crew is now 14 months old and smiling as big as ever! His mom says while he has a rough first year, he’s as laid back as ever and loves to laugh.

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