You may not have heard about plagiocephaly, but you’ve probably heard about baby flat head syndrome.
Plagiocephaly is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that cause an infant’s head to become flattened because of constant pressure on one spot.
Although it sounds pretty alarming, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that flat head syndrome is nothing to worry about.
In fact, when your infant starts sitting up, it can disappear within a couple of months. That said, there are a few instances where your baby’s plagiocephaly could indicate a more serious medical condition.
Read on to learn more about flat head syndrome and how to prevent it.
Types of Plagiocephaly
Most infants who suffer from flat head syndrome get this type of plagiocephaly. And as the name suggests, it’s caused by wrong positioning of your baby’s head.
Often, babies fall asleep with their heads turned to one side- usually the side that has interesting things.
Considering that their skulls are so soft, the persistent pressure on one spot causes their heads to form an asymmetrical shape.
This condition develops when a baby constantly sleeps facing upward, toward the ceiling. Such a sleeping position exerts too much pressure on the back of their head; hence, causing it to flatten.
Essentially, the only difference between positional plagiocephaly and Brachycephaly is the position where the flattening occurs.
This form of plagiocephaly is the least common. However, it has the most devastating effects on your baby’s health.
Scaphocephaly is a type of birth defect characterized by the closing of the joints between the bones of an infant’s skull.
When a baby is born, the top of their skull consists of five bones. There’s a rubber-like soft tissue between these bones, which expands to allow growth of their brain.
But for infants who have scaphocephaly, the bone develops across the soft tissue, causing two bones to connect and thus restricting further growth of the skull.
What Can Be Done to Prevent A Flat Head in Babies?
To prevent your baby from getting plagiocephaly, you should avoid leaving them lying on their back for too long or too often.
Minimize the time your baby spends with his head on a flat surface. Instead, consider holding them more often.
Rather than carry your baby in a car seat, use a baby carrier or sling.
With a carrier, your baby is in an upright position, which means he’s not lying on his back as would be the case if you were using a car seat or stroller.
Change the position of their head when they’re sleeping on their back. This means you should reposition your baby’s head from right to left or left to right.
Alternate your baby’s orientation in the crib. For most right-handed moms, they’ll hold their babies in their left arms and end up laying them down with their heads to the left.
In this stature, your baby will need to turn right to get a view of the room. Instead, you should position your baby in a way that facilitates active turning of their head to either side and not just to the right.
Other Tips to Prevent Your Baby from Getting a Flat Head
Practice tummy time
Simply place your baby on his belly for about ten to fifteen minutes for 2 or more times each day.
It’s important that you supervise your baby during their tummy time and never leave them alone in this position.
Giving your baby some tummy time not only prevents a flat head but also boosts their motor development. It strengthens the muscles in their neck, arm and shoulder.
Switch arms when feeding your baby
Most mothers will change their arms naturally when they are breastfeeding their babies. The problem comes in when a mom is using a bottle to feed their baby.
Often, they’ll hold the baby on the same side every time.
It’s important to alternate your arms as this prevents pressure on the back of their head from being exerted on one spot.
Regularly switching your arms also ensures that your baby’s visual ability develops equally in both their eyes.
Never use pillows, cushions or wedges
Some parents think that providing some sort of cushioning behind their babies’ heads is ideal. But these accessories actually carry a lot of risk.
For instance, pillows create a smothering hazard. If you use a pillow and place your baby on his belly while he sleeps, he won’t be able to turn, which means the pillow might block his nose and mouth and cause suffocation.
When your toddler starts crawling and moving about, then he is no longer restricted to the position you place him in.
But until then, your baby runs the risk of developing flat head syndrome. To prevent this, change up his position in the crib, hold him upright as often as possible and change arms when feeding him.
Also, instead of using a stroller, use a baby carrier, which encourages him to stay in an upright position.