Early palatal development in various complete and incomplete forms of cleft lip and/or palate (CLP) was studied from birth to 3 months of age by means of dental casts. Palatal morphology (shape) and dimensions--based on reproducible reference points--were determined in a group of 128 CLP children and 68 normal children who served as controls. Substantial normal palatal growth during the first 3 months of life was observed. Round arch forms changed into oval arch forms. Growth mainly takes place in the sagittal direction (+4 mm) (transverse: +1 mm). Palates of CLP children differed significantly dependent on the type of cleft and whether the cleft was complete or incomplete. Cleft lip and alveolus children and bilateral cleft lip and palate children had more elongated palatal arches, whereas unilateral cleft lip and palate children and cleft palate children had wider palatal arches than the control group. Incomplete clefts differed from the control group in the same direction as their complete cleft forms, though less distinctly. Preoperative orthopedics used in CLP patients does not stimulate growth. On the contrary, it even restricts growth.