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flat head baby syndrome

Flat Head Baby (plagiocephaly) Syndrome: Best Guide on Prevention and Treatment

Sleep is vital to your baby, but how your baby sleeps can make your baby develop the flat head baby syndrome, making them a flat head baby. Not to worry, Momma, we got you!

flat head baby syndrome

What is Flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly)?

Flat head syndrome, medically known as plagiocephaly, is a medical condition that occurs when a flat spot develops on a baby’s head, either at the back or side. Simply put, it is a condition in which a baby’s head is flat at one side.

The condition can make the baby’s head to look one-sided. One thing about babies is how soft their skulls and bones are. This makes the shape of a baby’s head prone to change when pressure is applied.

We have two kinds of plagiocephaly:

Flat head Syndrome (Plagiocephaly) is of two types :

  • Positional plagiocephaly and
  • Congenital plagiocephaly.

Positional plagiocephaly (Deformational plagiocephaly), is the most common type of flat head syndrome in babies. This type of flat head syndrome affects up to 50 percent of babies (source: The American Academy of Family Physicians).

Congenital plagiocephaly, also known as craniosynostosis, is an uncommon birth defect. This is caused by the closing of a coronal suture that runs from the top of the head toward either of the ears resulting in an abnormally shaped head.

Signs and Symptoms

A Flat head baby can be a major concern to parents, it is essential to check for the signs and symptoms early. Signs of plagiocephaly can become obvious to parents when their babies are about 6 to 8 weeks old. You can check for signs of flat head syndrome during bath time, your baby’s hair is wet, and the shape of the head is evident at this time.

Look out for the following signs:

  • A flattened area on the baby’s head either at the side or back.
  • Ears that are not equal or one that looks pushed forward (flat head syndrome can cause the ears of the baby to appear uneven).
  • A bald spot or less hair in one area of the head.

Causes of Flat Head Syndrome?

Sleeping position

The most usual cause of a flat head baby is a baby’s sleep position. Placing your baby to sleep in the same position every day puts steady pressure on the same parts of the skull of the baby resulting in flat head syndrome. Many babies are on their backs for many hours every day, so the head sometimes flattens in one spot. This does not only occur during sleep but from sitting in car seats, carriers, strollers, swings, and bouncy seats. It is important to watch the sleeping position of your baby during the first 4 to 12 weeks of life as this is when more babies develop a flat head syndrome.

Premature Babies

Premature babies are more likely to have a flat head syndrome than full-term babies. They have softer skulls than full-term babies and spend a lot of time on their backs without being moved or picked up because of their medical needs.

The use of Forceps or a vacuum during delivery

Forceps and vacuums put pressure on the skull and its soft bones, leading to flat head baby.

Pressure during Pregnancy

Babies with multiple births like twins, triplets are very likely to have heads with flat spots. At times, flat head syndrome can occur due to pressure on the baby’s skull from the mother’s pelvis. About 20% of flat head babies got this condition in the womb or the birth canal.

Muscular Torticollis (tor-ti-KOLL-is)

Torticollis is a neck condition that occurs when a baby has stiff neck muscles, making it hard for them to turn their heads. Babies with this condition keep their heads in the same position for a long time, resulting in a flat head syndrome.

How can I Prevent Flat head Syndrome?

  • It is always recommended to put your baby to sleep in varying positions
  • You can help in changing their sleeping positions. Having a co-sleeper bassinet is helpful for this, at least for the first three to four months.
  • Spend time carrying your baby, either in your arms or a carrier, instead of having them lie down for extended periods. Having a bouncer or baby seat can also help to reduce their risk.
  • Give them adequate tummy time while you are awake, and watching them can help reduce their risk of this condition.
  • Changing their feeding positions is also very helpful.

Can Flat Head Syndrome Lead to Complications?

Flat head baby syndrome (Positional plagiocephaly) naturally improves as the child ages and starts sitting, crawling and standing. In most cases, it does not affect the brain development or growth of the baby.

In the case of congenital plagiocephaly, surgery is usually necessary.

How is Flat Head Syndrome Treated?

Flat head Baby syndrome can be treated using the following methods:

  • Make use of tummy time. Allow your baby to lay on the stomach while awake during the day. Tummy time
    •  helps regular shaping of the back
    • of the
    • head.
  • Change sleeping positions: Though it is essential always to put your baby to sleep on their back to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant death syndrome SIDS, ensure you change their sleeping positions. For example, if your baby prefers sleeping with their right cheek flat against the crib mattress, you can position their head so that they sleep on their left cheek. Also, Position your baby in the crib to encourage active turning of the head to the side that’s not flattened.
  • Carry your baby more often. Carrying your baby more often helps to reduce pressure on the head.
  • Alternate the position of your baby’s head during sleep. You can change the position of your baby’s head periodically (from left to right, right to the left) when your baby is sleeping on the back. To prevent moving back and forth from your baby’s crib, you can use a co-sleeper bassinet.
  • Exercise: Flat head syndrome can result from Torticollis, so your doctor may recommend exercises like stretching to increase the motion of the baby’s neck. Please do not try this except instructed, and make sure you follow the doctor’s directions.
  • Use of helmet: Your doctor may prescribe a molding helmet for flat head syndrome. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons stated that the ideal age for helmet therapy is 3 to 6 months. The use of molding helmets can take about 12 weeks for the skull to be reshaped, and your baby may not need it for your baby. The helmets can cause skin irritation or make your baby upset. You can talk to your doctor if a helmet could help your baby.

When do I tell my baby’s doctor?

Recognizing flat head baby syndrome early increases the chances of the condition being resolved.

Speak to your child’s doctor if you notice any of these irregularities in your baby’s head:

  • flat spots
  • a slanted side of your baby’s head
  • Wrong positioned or uneven eyes and ears
  • hard spots on the head


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