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September is a time of year when we take a rest from our labor, prepare for the return of school and hope for cooler temperatures. However, for thousands of children affected by cleft palate and/or cleft lip (i.e. orofacial clefts), September is a month that brings awareness to their precious lives!

What are Orofacial Clefts?

According to,

  • A cleft lip is a physical split or separation of the two sides of the upper lip.
  • A cleft palate is a split or opening in either the bony portion or soft portion of the roof of the mouth.
  • Both malformations develop during early gestation.

Who is Affected?

A recent estimate by the Center for Disease Control, states that “each year 2,651 babies in the United States are born with a cleft palate, and 4,437 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate.”

KidsHealth.Org reports that orofacial clefts affect the child’s ability to breastfeed, and chew food. Additionally, children experience frequent ear infections, possible hearing loss, dental problems and speech difficulties. However, orofacial clefts do not cause any known learning delays.

Possible risk factors in pregnant women include:

  • Genetic Traits, either from father or mother
  • Vitamin Deficiencies
  • Chemical Exposure
  • Drug/Alcohol/Cigarette Use
  • Prescription Medications, such as those to control seizures (e.g. Topamax).

In fact, in 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “notified healthcare professionals and patients of an increased risk of development of cleft lip and/or cleft palate (oral clefts) in infants born to women treated with Topamax (topiramate) during pregnancy.”

Looking for a way to get involved?

The Children’s Craniofacial Association believes in “empowering and giving hope to individuals affected by facial differences”, and they provide resources to do just that. This is their 5th year helping parents organize picnics in their local areas to engage community awareness.

The Cleft Lip and Palate Foundation of Smiles offers networking, educating, advocating and researching. Their Parenting Tools model is an excellent way to connect families with resources and build relationships.

Let's take some time out during National Craniofacial Awareness Month to support these families in our very own communities!

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