Flat Head Syndrome: What to do?

A certain deformation of the head is observed in almost one out of every two newborns.


Although everything usually goes into order in the first few weeks of life, some deformities may worsen and others may even insidiously set in during the first few months.


More and more parents are consulting us for this condition called positional plagiocephaly, a more frequent problem since the recommendation of sleeping on the back.

An infant's head is still very malleable. It is thanks to this property that it molds into the vaginal canal and facilitates childbirth.


Positional plagiocephaly


More and more parents are consulting us for this condition called positional plagiocephaly. Indeed, this problem is more frequent since the recommendation of sleeping on the back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (late 1990s).


The weight of your newborn's head is relatively high compared to the rest of his or her body. Weak neck muscles and the shape of your baby's head mean that your baby's head may tilt to one side or the other while he or she sleeps. If your baby always sleeps in the same position, the bone behind the ear will gradually flatten. After a few weeks of life, it's not surprising to notice this problem in many babies.


Often, it only appears on one side. However, sometimes a complete posterior flattening of the head is seen, as if the neck extended to above the skull. The larger the head size, the less its muscles are able to support it and it may acquire a flat head. Premature babies and those with a disease that hinders their development are more at risk.


Although flattening of the skull usually occurs at about one to two months of age, some babies are born with flat heads because their skull has been molded in the uterus (for example, due to intrauterine space or twin pregnancy-related stresses).



What should I do if my baby's head is flattened?


At the first postpartum visit, we will do a head-to-toe examination to check the entire body. We will be able to check and monitor the condition of the spine as well as the skull bones in addition to the fontanelles. The gentle gestures of pediatric chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy will allow the spine and skull to grow and develop normally, while reducing possible alterations.


It is important to consult us if you notice that your baby has any of these deformities. Treated early enough, the vast majority of head deformities eventually fade. Other causes (torticollis, premature closure of a suture) can lead to a deformation of the skull and will require other types of treatment. Most of the time, cranial care and regular changes in the baby's position are enough to restore the shape of his skull within a few months.



Good habits to adopt at home


Remember to vary the support of your baby's head from birth. When placing your baby in bed, make sure it is not always facing the same side. Once your infant has the ability to turn his head on his own, you can alternate the orientation of his head in the crib by placing him either towards his head or towards his foot. A sound source or visual animation will attract his attention and encourage him to turn naturally to the desired side.


A baby is comfortable in your arms, but also make sure his head doesn't always stay in the same position because you always carry him with the same arm and/or in the same way.


When your child is awake, it is also suggested that you hold your child in a variety of positions where his head is clear and not under constant pressure. For example, putting him on his stomach to play is very beneficial for his development. He will learn to better control his head.


Some parents are comfortable putting their baby on his side to sleep during the day when they can easily look after him. However, the prone position during sleep should be avoided because of its involvement in sudden cot death syndrome.


Because of the pressure on the lumbar spine before the child is able to support his or her weight in this position, we do not recommend the use of BUMBO type seats. These seats put babies in a sitting position, forcing the lumbar spine to support the body weight before it is able to do so in a healthy way. A better idea would be to put the child on his or her stomach to learn to love this very important position.


Additional tips


  1. Put the child on his stomach after each diaper change. Increase this time by one minute per day.

  2. Parents could lie on the floor either in front of or next to the child to interact with him or her and provide comfort.

  3. Roll up a towel and place it under the baby's chest with arms over it for extra support.

  4. Place colorful toys or a mirror in front of the baby to get his or her attention.

  5. Use the car seat only in the car.

  6. Remember that this type of care takes time. Be patient and diligent when applying this new routine. This allows the treatments I offer to be more effective.

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