Flat Head Syndrome in Babies

Baby's headEvery parent dreams of having a beautiful baby that is perfect in every way. Many parents are often surprised when their babies are born with a misshaped head. It is actually very common for a baby to be born with a cone shaped head or to develop a flat head months after they are born. Premature babies, in particular, are commonly prone to what is referred to as ‘toaster’ head where it’s flat on both sides and appears longer and rounded at the top. The condition of  flat head syndrome or misshaped head is commonly referred to as plagiocephaly. I’ll go over common issues with flat head syndrome and how you can improve it in this article.

If you look closely, you can see and feel the soft spot on your baby’s head. This soft spot allows the skull to expand as it grows. Likewise, this makes your baby’s head more flexible to allow it to go through the birth canal. Sometimes when your baby is in the womb, they may stay in a particular position they like which can result in molding of the head. Another common occurrence with babies who are born with cone-shaped heads is the result of the force applied while passing through the birth canal. That is why babies born via c-section are less likely to have misshaped heads. In any case, a misshaped head at birth will most likely take a rounder shape over time so don’t be alarmed if it looks a little slanted at first.

What To Do For Flat Head Syndrome

Many factors can attribute to flat head syndrome in infants after they are born. The most common reason is due to positioning. A baby that is always on their back or stays in a particular position often, such as their side, can develop a flat or slanted side where their head rests against. Here are a few ways to help prevent this from occurring:

• Tummy time – Babies should always be placed on their back to sleep, so it’s important to give them ample tummy time during the day when they are awake. This not only helps to reduce a flat head, but is also important for developing muscles in the neck.

• Alternate positions – some babies often prefer to lie on a particular side. When your baby is laying down, whether on the floor or in their play pen, alternate the side they are laying on. Always supervise your baby carefully when lying on their side so they don’t roll onto their tummy where their face could be covered.

• Limit time spent on back- With so many baby gear products, busy parents often find placing their babies in swings and bouncers to be ideal for keeping them occupied. This is fine in short intervals. If your baby is spending a prolonged amount of time in these on a regular basis, it will lead to a flattened head due to the frequent pressure. In addition to tummy time, holding your baby upright (while supporting the head until they develop adequate control) can also help alleviate the condition.

Plagiocephaly is generally very harmless and does not require any medical intervention. Most babies will outgrow their flat head syndrome within time. Taking necessary preventative measures before they reach one year can significantly reduce any long-term affects. In some cases, however, a deformed shape to your baby’s head could be an indication of a more serious condition. Always consult with your child’s pediatrician regarding concerns about the shape of their head as well as any other health-related issues to confirm diagnosis and proper treatment recommendations.

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