Cleft and craniofacial conditions affect thousands of infants, children, teens and adults in the United States each year.

Some are born with congenital anomalies like cleft lip and palate, others with more complex, life-threatening craniofacial conditions. Some are burned; others are injured in accidents and animal attacks, or diagnosed with various oral/head/neck and skin diseases

Why is Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness Important?

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and improve understanding of orofacial clefts (clefts of the lip and palate) and other conditions of the head and face.

Each year in the United States, approximately 2,600 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,400 babies are born with a cleft lip, with or without a cleft palate (CDC). Other craniofacial birth defects include craniosynostosis (skull sutures fusing prematurely), anotia/microtia (ear is missing or underdeveloped), and anophthalmia/microphthalmia (missing or abnormally small eye).

Children with orofacial clefts and other craniofacial conditions often have impaired ability to feed and impaired language development, and might be at increased risk for a greater number of ear infections, hearing issues, and problems with their teeth.

Why is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness Important

Risk Factors

Several factors may increase the likelihood of a baby developing a cleft lip and cleft palate, including:


Family history:

Parents with a family history of cleft lip or cleft palate face a higher risk of having a baby with a cleft.

Exposure to certain substances during pregnancy:

Cleft lip and cleft palate may be more likely to occur in pregnant women who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or take certain medications.

Having diabetes:

There is some evidence that women diagnosed with diabetes before pregnancy may have an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.

Being obese during pregnancy:

There is some evidence that babies born to obese women may have increased risk of cleft lip and palate.

Gender differences:

Males are more likely to have a cleft lip with or without cleft palate. Cleft palate without cleft lip is more common in females.


In the United States, cleft lip and palate are reportedly most common in Native Americans and least common in African-Americans.

Making a difference for families impacted by childhood chronic illness:

CoachArt is a nonprofit organization offering free lessons in arts and athletics to kids impacted by chronic illness, including craniofacial abnormalities. Watch Missaira’s story of how she learned to play piano and violin at CoachArt, and is now a CoachArt volunteer, teaching piano and violin to other kids impacted by chronic illness: