Positional plagiocephaly, more commonly known as infantile flat head, is a concern for many parents. Some cases of misshapen heads are attributed to birth trauma, but flattening is mainly associated with the child's sleeping position when he is placed on his back. The newborn's skull bones are somewhat soft and flexible, which makes them susceptible to pressure. The "Back to Sleep" campaign, which encourages the use of this sleeping position to avoid sudden infant death syndrome, has resulted in an increase in positional plagiocephaly; 1 in 300 babies is affected. Below are some steps you can take to help prevent and reverse infantile head flattening.
Step 1. Hold your newborn, most of the time, preferably in an upright position
The more time a child spends outside the crib, infant seat and rocking chair, the less pressure is applied to the baby's head
Step 2. Place the baby on his/her own tummy, on a firm surface, for short periods throughout the day
"The Time to Lean on Your Navel" not only prevents flattening of the head, it also helps with motor development. It helps babies strengthen their neck, arms and shoulder muscles
Step 3. Alternate your child's position in the crib
Put the baby's head facing the foot of the bed one day, and in an inverted position the next time. This encourages the baby to look in different directions.
Step 4. Switch arms each time you breastfeed your baby
Step 5. Rearrange your baby's bedroom occasionally
Try placing the crib in another area of the room to give the baby a new point of view. This can prevent the child from regularly looking in the same direction.
Step 6. Vary your baby's activities throughout the day
Don't leave your baby in the same position or location for long periods of time. Excessive use of swings and child seats can result in head flattening.
Step 7. Check with your pediatrician if your newborn has a flattened head, or if their ears, eyes, or forehead look uneven
While in most cases this is plagiocephaly, some head deformities are caused by craniosynostosis, which is a serious condition that requires surgery.
- If your child is diagnosed with positional plagiocephaly, your doctor may advise you to take the above steps and wait to see if the condition improves. Most flattenings become rounded over time.
- More severe cases may require reshaping of the skull using a custom made helmet or corrective band.
- Use only the baby pillow, which is safe (airflow safety and medically approved) and avoid using memory foams (those that mold due to pressure from the body) and cotton materials due to the potential danger of suffocation.
- Never put a newborn to sleep on his stomach, even if he or she has developed the head flattening. Do this to avoid the potential risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Early intervention is the key to avoiding the expensive and painful treatment helmet.
- Avoid using seats, chairs, and swings that have not been medically approved; this includes mattresses, mats and pillows. Consult the child and newborn safety agencies websites for further details.