What is Flat Head Syndrome?
A long time ago, while working as nanny, I gained first hand experience with a condition I never knew existed. I left one Friday and returned to work on Monday and there it was! My baby's head was misshapened. I did not see it coming! There it was right before my eyes! What happened over the weekend? I began my research and started reading about what caused the infant in my care to have a flattened head, and what can be done to remedy the situation. This is when I found the term “Plagiocephaly”.
What is Plagiocephaly and how can you prevent it?
Plagiocephaly, also known as the flat head syndrome is a condition that develops either on the side or on the back of your baby’s head. Normally the condition will make a baby’s head look asymmetrical or even like a parallelogram. Since the skull bones of a baby won’t fuse in the first months, it’s possible for the soft bones to end up in a bad shape and that can become a problem.
There are 2 main types of Plagiocephaly. The first is called congenital Plagiocephaly. This is a very rare birth defect and in this case the spaces between skull bones close, hence the unwanted shape. Positional Plagiocephaly is the second type that is most common. It occurs out of nowhere and it’s said to affect more than 50% of the babies out there. Soooo….this is what happened to my baby!
What are the causes behind Plagiocephaly?
A very common cause is the sleep position. If you put your baby to sleep on their back or with their head towards the sides, that pressure on the parts of the skull can be extremely problematic and may cause muscular torticollis. Insufficient time spent on the stomach is another common problem. Premature babies may also experience this; the same thing with kids that have muscular torticollis.
A good rule of thumb is to change the position of your baby’s head once they’re asleep to the non flat side. You should make sure that your child has enough tummy time as well to strengthen the neck muscle. In addition, you should often hold the baby upright to give head break. Putting him/her in a crib, swing or car seat will not be the best solution. We also recommend you change the sleeping positions as often as possible. That can be really realistic and the results will be very successful if you are intentional.
Plagiocephaly is treated in a variety of ways. It usually comes down to the needs of the baby and what issues he/she is facing in the first place. One of the most common solutions is counter-position therapy, it delivers very good results and an astounding value and quality. In case the baby has muscular torticollis, stretching exercises will be great since they prevent any Plagiocephaly issues from getting worse. Another helpful solution were to use a head pillow under careful supervision which proved successful in shaping my baby’s head.
There are also some other solutions like the molding helmet therapy. In this case, the baby needs to have a molded helmet which is custom-made for him. This is designed to reform the skull and bring in the right shape.
In some severe situations, surgery will be a good option, especially if the baby has Plagiocephaly and the sutures are closed.
After experiencing first hand effects and reading about Plagiocephaly, I realized so many babies with helmets all over the place. In parks, at recreational activities etc, and recognized this issue is major, now that I am aware of it. Plagiocephaly can be very problematic for any child’s development. That’s the reason you want to address the issue early on. Even if it may not seem serious in the beginning, it can end up being very helpful to handle it quickly. Talking with a doctor and monitoring the way Plagiocephaly evolves is imperative, and it has the potential to really make things work the way you want. Thankfully, surgery may not be needed; with the right exercises your child can get back to normal!