Seven-month-old girl smiles for the FIRST time after undergoing cleft palate surgery

A seven-month-old from Baltimore is learning to smile for the very first time after undergoing surgery for her cleft palate.

Little Riley Johnson was born without without a fully-developed mouth, nose and top lip, due to a cleft which was discovered during her mother Angela’s 20 week ultrasound appointment.

‘I worried about the social implications, how my daughter would deal with other kids once she got older with her appearance and with boys,’ Angela admitted to the Daily Mail.

‘But after she was born all my anxieties were behind me, she was beautiful and I loved her as much as if I had a child without a cleft.’

‘She had the most severe form of clefting but to me she was gorgeous, she was my baby and I couldn’t have been more proud of her at that time.’

Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson added a new photo.

However, despite falling in love with her daughter’s appearance with her cleft, it was recommended that Riley have surgery, as her condition would have caused her medical difficulties throughout her life.

‘At two-weeks-old, she was fitted with a retainer-type device to help stretch the skin around her nose and reform her palate,’ Angela explained to the paper. ‘The retainer device she was fitted with, slowly stretched the skin to create the middle part of the nose and give her a more normal appearance allowing them to fix her mouth together again,’ the mother-of-one added.

‘There were a lot of medical reasons to get it fixed, there were certain sounds she couldn’t make before like the ‘m’ sound and she struggled to eat properly.’

‘Also with any child with a craniofacial difference or anyone who looks different they could be bullied, which was the last thing I wanted.’

Angela added that she would sometimes get cruel comments from strangers about her daughter’s appearance: ‘Some people look at her and got excited, but others would just say things rudely like ‘What’s wrong with her?’ and more.’

‘It was hard to hear because in my eyes there was nothing wrong with her, she was just born a little differently.’

Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson added a new photo.

After months spent stretching her skin with her retainer, Riley underwent a seven-hour operation, and is now learning to smile, make sounds and enjoy sensory experiences that would not have been possible for her before.

‘I got used to seeing how she looked before and fell in love with her face prior to surgery, so it’s been like looking at my baby for the first time,’ Angela said.

‘But now that her upper lip is fixed she can really play with all of the sounds she’s been missing out on. She could never say anything with a ‘m’ in it before, now she’s playing with her voice – before she was just screaming, making squealing noises and grunting.’

‘She’s not saying ‘mama’ yet but I’m sure it won’t be long now.’