Have you noticed that your baby is starting to develop a bit of a flat patch on the back or side of his or her head, or are you worried that this might happen to your child? It may sound strange, but this is a common problem. Luckily, it is not dangerous and has no adverse effect on the child’s brain or overall health. Also, in many cases it will correct on its own over time. If the flattening is severe, it probably won’t go away completely by itself.
There are Two Main Types of Flat Head Syndrome
Plagiocephaly occurs when there is flattening on one side of the baby’s head. This can cause the head to have an asymmetrical appearance, possibly with ears that are misaligned. A head with plagiocephaly might have the appearance of a parallelogram when viewed from above. In these cases, there may be some bulging of the forehead on the flat side of the head.
Brachycephaly occurs when the back of a baby’s head is flattened. This flattening of the back of the head can lead to widening, and there is sometimes bulging of the forehead.
Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly are both common conditions. In fact, approximately one in five babies are affected by one of these conditions at some point. Sometimes, head flattening can occur while the baby is still in the womb. Babies that are born prematurely are thought to be at higher risk of developing flat head syndrome.
This is because when they are born their skulls are softer than those of full-term infants. Also, premature babies are required to spend more time in a still position. Neck muscle tightness is also linked to flat head syndrome. Tightness in the neck muscles makes it more difficult for babies to turn their heads into different positions.
Remember: Safety First
Some parents think that since lying on its back can lead to flattening of the head, that they should have their child sleep in a different position. This is a dangerous idea.
It is essential that your baby always sleep on its back, regardless of any worries about head flattening. There are other things that you can do to help prevent or reverse head flattening. Always have your child sleep on his or her back.
Babies who sleep on their backs are at much lower risk of being lost to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). For your baby’s first six months of life, the best possible course you can take is for it to sleep in a crib in your room, always on its back.
Why Does Flat Head Occur?
As most of us know, babies have soft skulls. For a significant amount of time, the bones of the skull can be easily affected by pressure. Also, infants’ neck muscles are weak.
This means that when a baby turns its head to one side, they are unlikely to move it to the other in most circumstances. This can lead to flattening of one side of the face.
How To Prevent Flat Head on a Baby
There are several things that you can do to help lessen the likelihood that your child will develop a flat patch on his or her head. These include:
- Changing your baby’s head positioning for each sleep. For example, one day you could position your baby with his or her head facing the head of the crib, and the next day place him or her so that his or her head is facing the foot of the crib. You can alternate this from day to day.
- Position mobiles to encourage your baby to change the position of his or her head more frequently.
- Give your baby some “tummy time” during his or her waking hours. Your child must always be supervised when he or she is on his or her tummy. Position your baby on his or her tummy for about 10 to 15 minutes of supervised time each day.
- Switch your infant between a flat surface, a sling, and a sloping chair. This helps to ensure that pressure is not constantly exerted on one part of the baby’s head.
- Remember to alternate the side on which you hold your infant when carrying and feeding it.
- If it seems like your baby has some neck stiffness creating difficulty in turning their head, consider asking your doctor whether physiotherapy might be helpful. Also ask your doctor to ensure that the baby does not have craniosynostosis. If it is found that your baby has craniosynostosis, it is possible that surgery may be required.
- Look into the option of a special curved mattress, specially designed to avoid there being too much pressure on parts of the baby’s head.
While flat head syndrome in a baby can be distressing to his or her parents and family, it will not negatively impact the brain or any other aspect of health.
As we have gone over here, there are many different things that you can do to help prevent your child developing a flat patch on his or her head, as well as to help reverse flatness that already exists.
As long as you take reasonable measures in order to prevent or reverse flat head syndrome as much as you can, your child will not have any permanent and noticeable effects. Your baby’s hair will eventually grow in, making any traces of flatness invisible to the eye. It is very important that you always put your baby’s safety first, and ensure that you help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by always having your baby sleep on its back. Any “tummy time” should be done exclusively when your baby is awake and being supervised by you.