When a baby’s head develops a flat spot, it is known as flat head syndrome, also known as Positional plagiocephaly.
During the first few months, the baby’s skull is soft, and their neck muscles are still weak, which causes their head to rest on surfaces. And because of these soft bones, a baby’s head can change shape. Usually when a baby lies or sleeps in the same position on a regular basis, the baby’s head can develop a flat spot.
Continue reading to know more about the signs and symptoms of flat head syndrome, and how parents can take care of it from the beginning.
Signs Of Flat Head Syndrome
Flat head syndrome symptoms may appear unrecognized. So when your baby’s hair is wet and their head shape is most visible, look for the signs. Parents may notice signs of plagiocephaly when their babies are 6 to 8 weeks old, and many pediatricians examine a baby for skull deformities at every checkup during infancy.
Here are some signs and symptoms for the same:
- Weird head shape, in which one side of the head appears flat while the other appears normal.
- Premature infants are also more likely to have skull abnormalities, so keep an eye out if your baby was born prematurely.
- Flat head babies have less hair on one side of their head.
- One of their ears or one side of their brow appears to be slightly pushed forward.
- Flat head syndrome limits to one side of the head. It can, however, occur on both sides or in the back (sometimes called brachycephaly). The longer a portion of the head rests on a flat surface, the more chances are that it will flatten.
Complications Associated With Flat Head Syndrome
If your baby’s flat head is a result of an underlying issue with the neck muscles, for example, which prevents him or her from properly lifting his or her head, your baby may suffer muscle damage. It can even lead to muscle bleeding.
Why shouldn’t you put a baby in one position for a long period of time?
When your baby is left in one position for an extended period of time, the muscle may actually tighten and shorten permanently. And your baby’s neck muscles might not develop properly enough to give him the strength to lift his head.
The best way to avoid flat head syndrome is to take precautions against your baby developing it from birth. While you should always place your baby to sleep on his or her back, you should take the following precautions:
- While your baby is sleeping, adjust their head’s position and gently move their head to the unfavorable side.
- Reduce the amount of time your baby spends sleeping in places where their head cannot move freely.
- Spend as little time as possible in curved baby swings or car seats as it restricts movement.
- While the baby is awake, give them plenty of supervised “tummy time.” Tummy time helps strengthen their neck, arms, and back and prevents flat head syndrome.
If your baby’s head unevenness does not improve by the age of 6 months, then your doctor may recommend a molding helmet. A molding helmet is a custom-fitted helmet that relieves pressure on your baby’s flattened side of the head.
Molding helmets are quite useful in treating head unevenness between the ages of 4 and 12 months. The skull bones are still moldable during this time, and the brain is rapidly growing. Treatment with a molding helmet is unlikely to work after the age of one, when the skull bones fuse together and head growth slows.
Some children are more prone to flat head syndrome, such as premature babies, those who had a difficult birth, or those who have torticollis (also known as wry or twisted neck), so you should not blame yourself if your child has one. In case of any concern, you must visit a doctor.
Infant repositioning techniques can assist in the correction or reduction of flat head syndrome. It is advantageous to start early and to maintain consistency. Contact your doctor if repositioning does not work or if your baby’s neck muscles appear tense. Physical therapy or the use of a helmet could be beneficial.