Plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome in babies is a growing concern. Many babies tend to develop flat heads during their initial months of birth. This article tells you about the syndrome and methods to prevent it.
A newborn baby has a soft and delicate head due to which it tends to develop a deformity because of continuous pressure. The deformity usually occurs as a flat spot on the baby’s head. Development of such a deformity in newborn babies is known as plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome. This syndrome is usually seen when babies spend more time lying down in one position for a long time, which results in continuous exertion of pressure on that particular area, ultimately resulting in a flat spot. A flat head can also be a result of pressure exerted on the baby’s head during its passage from the birth canal during vaginal delivery. Such deformities tend to rectify within six weeks after birth.
Increased incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) lead to “Back to Sleep” campaign under which parents were instructed to make their babies sleep on their back. Practicing this approach definitely reduced the occurrence of SIDS however, it led to increased incidence of flat heads among babies. Even though this deformity does not cause brain damage, it is a cause of concern.
Prevention of Plagiocephaly
The most common form of plagiocephaly is positional plagiocephaly. This develops when a baby is placed on a mattress with its face up for a long time, and continuous pressure is exerted on a particular area of the head. As babies are incapable of moving their heads in different directions, pressure on a single area leads to the development of a flat spot.
Here are a few ways to prevent this problem in babies.
- Include a fair amount of “tummy time” when your baby is awake. Mothers should make their babies practice to be on their tummy because many babies do not like it. Starting their tummy time right away will help them develop a habit of spending time on their tummy.
- Make your baby spend time in other positions like being upright or lying on its side. This will let your baby experience other positions and help discovering the world around it in a different way.
- Changing your baby’s position throughout the day will also help in preventing plagiocephaly.
- Do not place your baby on a car seat or baby swing for long, as this adds to the time of pressure exerted on the baby’s head.
- You can spend more time carrying your baby on a sling throughout the day. Babywearing is a nice way of reducing the amount of time the baby spends on its back. This not only increases the total time you spend with your baby, it will also be a treat for your little one to enjoy your company!
- Keep changing the direction of your baby’s head while sleeping. This will prevent the baby from keeping its head tilted in one direction for long.
- Place a baby pillow underneath you baby’s head during sleeping. Such pillows distribute pressure evenly and prevent babies from developing flat heads.
- Feed your baby by placing it on both the sides alternatively. This will decrease the time spent in one position and reduce the chances of developing a flat head.
Another form of plagiocephaly is craniosynostosis in which, the joints of the skull close early resulting in improper growth of brain. Surgical treatment is required to treat this birth defect. A baby with a flat spot on the head needs medical attention. Parents must immediately contact a pediatrician if they observe a flat spot developing on their baby’s head.
Depending on severity of the condition, doctor will advise a treatment. Severe cases call for cranial orthotic therapy. In this therapy, the baby is made to wear a plagiocephaly helmet for 23 hours a day for a period of 2-6 months to correct the shape of baby’s head. It is advisable that parents start practicing preventive measures as early as possible so that the need for treatment does not arise at all.