Objective: This study sought to understand caregivers' (CGs') responses to early cleft lip/palate care for their infants.
Method: A prospective, mixed methods multicenter longitudinal study was conducted among CGs (N = 118) seeking treatment for their infants' cleft lip and palate or cleft lip only at 1 of 6 cleft treatment centers in the United States. Participants were in 1 of 2 treatment groups: traditional care only or nasoalveolar molding (NAM) plus traditional care. The CGs completed semistructured interviews and standardized questionnaires assessing psychosocial well-being and family impact at 3 time points: the beginning of treatment (∼1 month of age), prelip surgery (∼3-5 months of age), and postpalate surgery (∼12-13 months of age). Multilevel modeling was used to longitudinally assess CGs' psychosocial outcomes.
Results: Although the first year was demanding for all CGs, NAM onset and the child's lip surgery were particularly stressful times. CGs used optimism, problem-solving behavior, and social support to cope with this stress. Qualitatively, CGs' ability to balance cleft treatment demands with their psychosocial resources and coping strategies influenced family adaptation. Qualitative and quantitative results indicated CGs of NAM-treated infants experienced more rapid declines in anxiety and depressive symptoms and better coping skills over time than CGs whose infants had traditional care.
Conclusion: CGs of NAM-treated infants experienced more positive psychosocial outcomes than CGs whose infants had traditional care. Results from the mixed model support the family adjustment and adaptation response model as used in pediatric chronic condition research.