According to the American Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Association (ACPA) website, clefts are among the most common problems found in newborn babies in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 7,000 (or about one in 600) babies will be born with a cleft in the U.S. this year.
A cleft lip is an opening in the lip, and a cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. Clefts happen when a baby’s lip or palate does not come together or “fuse” during the first three months of pregnancy while the baby is forming before birth. Scientists have learned that there are many causes for clefts, and research is under way to discover more about these causes. Sometimes, clefts occur in combination with other conditions which are associated with a genetic syndrome.
After birth, a baby will be referred to a cleft palate treatment team for proper guidance in feeding as well as support for parents who may experience feelings of concern, anxiety, and grief. A cleft lip will be surgically repaired during the first few months of life, while a cleft palate will be surgically repaired some months later.
With the use of special bottles and nipples, along with careful positioning, a baby can be fed properly. In addition, a speech pathologist can assist to improve speech; commonly, a baby will experience an overly nasal tone to his speech as he grows older. Of note, there is no relationship between intellectual disability and cleft lip and palate.
The ACPA encourages us to build cleft/craniofacial awareness throughout the month of July during National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month (NCCAPM) by:
- Wearing purple, the official color of NCCAPM
- Adding the “Cleft Awareness” Facebook Frame or Twibbon to your profile picture for the month of July
- Writing to your state and federal representatives to advocate for cleft palate/craniofacial patients and insurance legislation to cover treatment costs
- Donating to the ACPA
For additional education and resources about Cleft and Craniofacial awareness and to view additional information regarding the content of this article, please visit the ACPA website or the ACPA Family Services website.