Maybe you’ve heard the term ‘flat head syndrome’, or perhaps you’ve seen a baby with a flat spot at the back of her head. Maybe your own baby’s head is beginning to look a bit flat in the back — don’t panic! Plagiocephaly, or Positional Plagiocephaly, is more common than one would think. In fact, almost half of all two month olds in the US have some form of Plagiocephaly, ranging from moderate to severe.
What Is Plagiocephaly?
Babies grow at an extremely fast rate from birth, tripling their size in the first year, and their heads are no exception. To accommodate such a pace of growth, babies’ skulls remain “soft” with the cranial bones not yet fused. A baby’s unfused skull makes it easy to mold (how many babies have you seen born with a cone-shaped head?).
Positional Plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, can be present at birth (from cranial pressure in utero) or developed over time. Flat spots usually appear in the back or on either side, and are caused when a baby sleeps in the same position for a length of time.
The “Back Is Best” campaign, launched in the 1990s in an effort to combat SIDS, is largely responsible for the rise in Plagiocephaly in infants. With infants spending more time on their backs, Plagiocephaly has definitely become more common, but it’s not impossible to treat.
It’s important to note that cribs aren’t the only culprits here; bouncers, car seats and swings, anywhere your baby spends a significant amount of time laying, can all contribute to the development of Plagiocephaly.
How to Treat Plagiocephaly?
In most cases, your baby’s flat spots will resolve themselves in a matter of months. However, your should consult your pediatrician if you notice any flattening of your baby’s head. If you wait too long, your baby’s skull will grow less pliable over time, making it difficult to resolve.
If your baby has Positional Plagiocephaly, or flat spots caused by lying down, there are a variety of things you can do to help resolve the issue. Remember to ACT to help treat Plagiocephaly:
Make a concerted effort to vary the way you lie your baby in his crib — you’d be surprised how much your dominant hand/arm influences repetition! You should also reposition your baby’s head throughout the night, ensuring that he is sleeping on both sides (this will help with muscle development in the neck as well).
Carry Your Baby
If you’re trying to treat Plagiocephaly, or just trying to avoid it, one of the best things you can do is to hold your baby. These days there are a variety of baby carriers available, allowing you to carry your baby while having both hands free. Babywearing isn’t just beneficial for your little one’s head though, the benefits are varied and plentiful!
Yes, the dreaded ‘T’ word. I honestly don’t know of many moms and babies who had a blast with tummy time in the early days, but it’s necessary. Not only does it give your little one’s noggin a break, but it strengthens the neck muscles, which are integral to appropriate and timely development.
Just remember, Plagiocephaly is relatively common, but there are plenty of things you can do to help your baby’s head remain beautifully round. If you’re still having trouble with sleeping arrangements, give me a call!