4-12 May 2024 marks Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week

Around one in 700 babies are born with a cleft around the world every year. That’s over 1,200 babies born with a cleft each year in the UK.

The aim of this week is to raise awareness of a condition that at least 3 babies per day are born with, in the UK; to help people understand what a cleft is and the impact clefts can have on a family – and the difference that the right support can make.

Raising awareness also helps raise vital funds for CLAPA (Cleft Lip and Palate Association) who provide support and specialist bottles and teats to families of babies who have had a diagnosis of a cleft, whether antenatally or at birth.


What is Cleft Lip and Palate?

In very early pregnancy, different parts of a baby’s face develop separately and then join together. If some parts do not join properly, the baby is born with a cleft.

A cleft lip and/or palate is the most common craniofacial abnormality (a problem to do with the skull and face) that babies can be born with.

The cleft can be in the top lip (cleft lip), the roof of the mouth (cleft palate), or both.
Around 45% will have a cleft palate on its own, 24% will have a cleft lip on its own, and 31% will have a cleft lip and palate.

Bilateral cleft lip and palate (where the cleft is on both sides of the lip) is the least common type, at just 9%.

A cleft often means babies can’t be breastfed or use regular bottles.
The gap makes it difficult to create suction; it’s like trying to drink through a straw with a hole in it.

No one knows exactly what causes a cleft. It is thought to be caused by a combination of different genetic and environmental factors.

How is a cleft lip and/or palate treated?

The gap left by a cleft is usually operated on before a child’s first birthday with cleft lips often being repaired with 1 or 2 surgeries from the age of 3 months and a cleft palate being operated on from around 8 to 12 months.

Children with a cleft that involves their gum may need an Alveolar Bone Graft procedure when they are 7-12 years old to make sure their adult teeth come through properly.

However, the care pathway is for 20 years and can involve further surgeries when older such as dental surgery and rhinoplasty.

Cleft patients are treated at specialist centres around the UK and involve a large team of experts in this field.

Just like every child, every cleft is unique, and every family will face unique challenges including problems with their speech, teeth and hearing.

Here are some ways you can get involved and help raise awareness:

• Wear It Blue – organise a blue dress down or dress up day at school, college or work
• Cuppa for CLAPA – hold a coffee morning, catch up and chat all whilst raising awareness of cleft.
• Celebrate Difference

For more information visit Cleft Lip & Palate Association (clapa.com) and @clapacommunity on Insta

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