Using individual participant data from six population-based case–control studies, we conducted pooled analyses to examine maternal alcohol consumption and the risk of clefts among >4600 infants with cleft lip only, cleft lip with cleft palate, or cleft palate only and >10,000 unaffected controls. We examined two first-trimester alcohol measures: average number of drinks/sitting and maximum number of drinks/sitting, with five studies contributing to each analysis. Study-specific odds ratios (ORs) were estimated using logistic regression and pooled to generate adjusted summary ORs. Across studies, 0.9–3.2 % of control mothers reported drinking an average of 5+ drinks/sitting, while 1.4–23.5 % reported drinking a maximum of 5+ drinks/sitting. Compared with non-drinkers, mothers who drank an average of 5+ drinks/sitting were more likely to deliver an infant with cleft lip only (pooled OR 1.48; 95 % confidence intervals 1.01, 2.18). The estimate was higher among women who drank at this level 3+ times (pooled OR 1.95; 1.23, 3.11). Ever drinking a maximum of 5+ drinks/sitting and non-binge drinking were not associated with cleft risk. Repeated heavy maternal alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of cleft lip only in offspring. There was little evidence of increased risk for other cleft types or alcohol measures. © 2016, The Author(s).