If you could swear your baby is developing a spot on his head that seems flatter than it should be, it’s likely not your imagination. Flat head syndrome, also known as plagiocephaly, is very much a real thing. It’s not dangerous, nor does it hurt your baby, but it’s still something to address as soon as possible. Here’s a closer look at flat head syndrome, why it develops, and what you should do if you believe your baby has it.
Why do babies develop flat heads?
An adult human’s skull is rigid, inflexible, and very much set in place. An infant’s, on the other hand, is softer and more malleable. Not only does a softer head help a baby be born in the first place, but it gives his head the room it needs to grow. However, this same softness is why flat head syndrome sometimes develops when babies:
- Invariably sleep or lie with their heads turned to the same side
- Spend a lot of time sleeping or relaxing in car seats, bouncers, and similar structures
- Are premature or experience a tighter squeeze when traveling down the birth canal
- Are the product of multiple births
Why is it important to treat flat head syndrome?
In many cases, a flat spot will even itself out as a baby grows. However, it’s still best to treat it if you notice one developing. Early detection and treatment help increase the baby’s chances of developing a nice, balanced, healthy head shape. However, treating plagiocephaly is about a lot more than aesthetics.
Actively working to reshape a flat spot or another skull deformity may help prevent the development of certain chronic conditions and disabilities. Examples include neck issues or head tilt problems. Some studies have also shown a link between flat head syndrome and cognitive or motor development delays in infants.
How can you treat flat head syndrome?
Whether you’ve already noticed a flat spot developing on your baby’s head or simply want to prevent the possibility, talking to your pediatrician is an excellent first step. Your doctor will look at your baby’s head and make suggestions based on what he sees. He may also recommend corrective measures like physical therapy, a baby helmet, or a special baby pillow designed to treat and prevent flat head syndrome.
You can also make some adjustments to how you position or interact with your baby that will help immensely.
- When your baby is awake and supervised, encourage plenty of tummy time. This not only helps prevent flat spots but strengthens your baby’s neck muscles and encourages a healthy interest in the world around him.
- Hold your baby often instead of leaving him to spend too much time in a crib, car seat, or bouncer alone.
- Pay attention to how you position your baby when you lay him down to sleep. Vary the positioning of the head, and prioritize positions that encourage your baby to turn his head to look out the door or around the room.
It’s never too soon to address the possibility of flat head syndrome. Talk to your doctor today about sleep recommendations and your best options!